Rocco DeLuca sounds like the name of a bruiser on Sons of Anarchy, but I assure you he’s not quite so menacing. In actuality, DeLuca is a man with a golden voice who flits effortlessly between rustic blues, heartfelt folk ballads, and with his most recent self-titled release, shades of post-modern pop and subtle psychedelia. I guess we call that combination “Americana” these days.
DeLuca’s shifting sound on his latest album is due in part to his partnership with seven-time Grammy winning producer, Daniel Lanois, who has worked on albums for legendary artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmy Lou Harris, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson, and Brandon Flowers (The Killers). Lanois’ depth of experience gained over years working with such talented luminaries is clearly audible in DeLuca’s new songs.
When Lanois was asked about his reasons for working with the youthful DeLuca (who is actually 38 but doesn’t look a day over 28), he answered: “I like the street corner aspect of working with Rocco. It woke up a certain part of my renegade ways I’m trying to keep alive these days. I fully believe in DeLuca. I think that he’s got the power to be a contemporary troubadour…”
Given his penchant for spinning songs into Grammy gold, it’s safe to assume Lanois knows what he’s talking about when it comes to troubadours. And although it’s tough to consider anyone on the same level as former Lanois collaborator Bob Dylan, DeLuca and Dylan share somewhat similar backgrounds in that they drew early inspiration from lost and fading sources – some historically renowned today, others obscure and unpopular. Where Dylan crafted his signature sound after folk singers like Woody Guthrie, DeLuca learned to play guitar by listening to Delta blues men, eventually growing into a natural style that remains unique among his peers striving for authenticity, but who are often lost in the music industry mix of copycats and unfortunate record label dealings.
DeLuca seems to have escaped that fate through his talent and keenness for truly impressive musical partnerships. Before Lanois came into the picture, the late, great John Lee Hooker offered DeLuca the chance to open for his live shows. If you think that’s cool, it only gets better. Johnny Cash and June Carter actually invited DeLuca into their home, instructing the young singer/songwriter and offering support. You can’t get a better endorsement than that.
DeLuca is channeling a breadth of American music history through a modern filter, introducing a new generation to the old, stepping forward while every so often glancing over his shoulder to recall his roots. If that sounds like your kind of musician, be sure to catch DeLuca at Rams Head On Stage this Saturday, October 18th. Tickets are still available for the matinee show, beginning at 12:30 p.m.
For a truly intimate glimpse of DeLuca’s soulful singing voice, check out this live video of DeLuca and Lanois playing together at the Belljar Cafe in Toronto, Ontario.
– Matt Ellis