Most artists today like to release a single here and a single there, or perhaps a three- or four-song EP every six months under the guise of staying relevant or catering to people’s short attention spans. But Dave Vargo isn’t like most.
You see, Vargo has a style not a formula. When you hear his music, you can tell it’s pure Dave and not a carbon copy of a previous record or a song that worked in the past. Burning Through, his 2016 debut solo album, was released because, in his words, “it was time” and given his wealth of experience as both a touring musician (for Whitney Houston, Rupert Holmes, Phoebe Snow and others) and a songwriter, I’m sure there is little argument to the contrary.
Vargo said he was hesitant to release that first disc, but after some gentle nudging from various sources he finally did so. Burning Through drew rave reviews for close to a year following its release and the laid-back Vargo quietly went about his business while writing the sequel.
His second effort, spaces in between — an 11-song masterpiece that he co-produced with Tim Pannella — is more electrified than acoustic, with a robust live sound. From the opening track, “This Moment On” it’s easy to hear that Vargo has taken a more aggressive approach, well worth the three-year wait.
“Without a Fight,” with its studded guitar and bottom heavy yet steady rhythm, is a dynamic roller coaster that ebbs and flows nicely. “This Time Around” has that Vargo sound with some great lead guitar nuances underneath the prominent acoustic work that has come to define his artistry.
“Rewrites” can be described as having a “big” sound. It’s far gutsier than the normally relaxed feel of his previous compositions, and a standout track, for sure.
“Nowhere Else” is a return to his comfort zone, featuring a dominant acoustic base with drum and electric guitar tracks that are very well utilized as they complement Vargo’s semi-haunting vocals.
“Battle Burns” seems to lament a musician’s life or possibly the scars of a relationship or relationships past — lessons learned and experience gained. “Someday” could have fit on either Burning Through or this album, once again exemplifying that Vargo style. Acoustic heavy with a vocal cadence that has become so recognizable.
“In Between” flows effortlessly from start to finish with backing vocals credited to Audra Mariel that are mixed perfectly, just underneath the surface — enough to stand out yet not overpowering.
“Tracks” is once again pure Dave Vargo, a tender ballad that describes what we all go through at some point in life: “Boxing up all those memories black and white, sorting through all the tracks you’ve made on this life.”
There’s always pressure on any artist, no matter what their talent, to produce a good product, especially if their first is well received. spaces in between not only meets those expectations but exceeds them by a wide margin.
Vargo performs at the Our House Restaurant in Farmingdale, Dec. 19; the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, Dec. 29; and Belmar Arts, Jan. 11. Visit davevargomusic.com.
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