Rocco DeLuca and the Burden

I Trust You to Kill Me

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The first release from singer/songwriter Jude Cole (also this disc's producer) and actor Kiefer Sutherland's Ironworks imprint is an impressive if occasionally derivative album from the West Coast-based Rocco Deluca. Backed by the three-piece Burden band consisting of bass, drums, and additional percussion, the latter adding a propulsive element to the sound, Deluca sticks primarily to Dobro, which imbues the disc with a more mysterious, exotic feel. Deluca has sure listened to his Led Zeppelin collection, though, and much of this seems heavily influenced by that band's more acoustic side, in particular Led Zeppelin III. The singer's voice shifts from a ghostly Jack White/Jeff Buckley style to the more deliberate howling of Robert Plant and the Cult's Ian Astbury. There's a slight but consistent bluesy feel to this music that grounds it, in the same way as the White Stripes and Zeppelin reference the genre, but in a far less overt manner. Producer Cole embellishes the project with subtle overdubs that layer these tracks, adding heft and colors to make them jump out of the speakers. Drummer Ryan Carmen would do well to lose the overt John Bonham-isms, especially on the majestic "Swing Low," a song that easily could have slotted into the Zeppelin catalog, especially when Deluca shifts into a Plant-ish howl. The acoustic Dobro in the song brings an earthy quality that takes it back to the swamps. The Cult-meets-Zeppelin overtones explode on "Soul," which even adds John Paul Jones-styled orchestration but takes a surprising turn with a middle section of feedback and percussion. These songs rock, but generally do so with a restrained quality that keeps them grounded and infuses the project with a classy edge that never seems forced or strained. Cole leaves plenty of room for Deluca's Dobro to slide and slither through the songs, bringing a unique quality to the sound even while the listener refers back to White Stripes and Zeppelin riffs. But Deluca is talented enough to transcend these limitations, due to his sharp songwriting and genuinely moving vocals. The ballad "Mystified," with its slight country touches, displays the tender underbelly to Deluca's approach, one that is evident over much of this impressive debut.

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