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Dave Vargo releases

An acoustic guitar burning with lively passion sparks up the sonic engine on a vehicle called “This Time Around,” which will see singer/songwriter Dave Vargo taking us on a poignant road trip right into the American heartland. The rocky drums are reminiscent of mountains hanging over the horizon on the Great Plains, the harmonies are as soft and wispy as a gentle September breeze, and the central melody familiar enough so that we don’t feel completely lost in this hypnotic land and yet still remain entranced by the wondrous notion that we could end up virtually anywhere by the time that this four minute song comes to a conclusion. “This Time Around” is one half of the pre-release EP that Vargo is cutting ahead of his upcoming album, but it delivers so many memorable grooves in its slow-churning carnival of folk-rock hooks that, in my opinion, it’s stirring qualities make picking up his new record a given for any serious audiophile. It’s joined here by the equally bright “Battle Burns,” and though these are only a hint of what’s to come in his forthcoming release, I have a feeling that they’re going to have Vargo’s fans overwhelmingly excited this spring just the same.

Both of these singles share elements in their framework with the alternative country music model as it currently stands, but I think that, through their simplistic construction, they actually lean more heavily on traditions than they do progressive conceptualism. “Battle Burns” tears away the silence with a rebellious, almost classic rock-style tonality that inspires chills in the chorus and chest-pounding thrills in the main verses, and “This Time Around” plays out more like a protest anthem than it does a self-indulgent dirge. Reflection is a linchpin in these tracks, and its presence is felt in the lyrical and instrumental expressions that we find from start to finish in both songs. The material is inarguably as personal and intimate as it gets, but fascinatingly, there’s never a moment where Vargo comes off as self-centered or isolated from the external world in his poetic prose. It’s no easy feat to make relatable balladry that speaks just as much to a part of its composer’s soul, but somehow, Dave Vargo makes it look incredibly easy here.

The emotional driving “Battle Burns” finds its way to us first through the texture of its opulent guitar strumming, and eventually, through the harmony created between Vargo’s vocal track and the chic string arrangement cushioning it in the master mix. His contemplative attitude is matched by the melancholic tone of his band. I’m very curious to hear the rest of the songs that will comprise the album that these two tracks were cut from, as if these songs are any measure of what the record will contain as a whole, it may well be the release that brings Dave Vargo’s music out of obscurity. The stars appear to be aligning for his breakthrough moment, and after hearing this pair of hits, I think that his time has finally come.

 John McCall

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