Personal songwriting, unfortunately, often takes the form of navel-gazing. Self-absorbed songwriting with a strong autobiographical tilt is the dominant style. Listeners endure song cycles built around the author sifting through the wreckage of their lives with a fine-tooth comb and finding themselves wanting. We know that many times this results in a compelling listening experience. We’re able to connect with the songwriter’s travails and the musical vehicles used for this task prove to be melodic or otherwise gripping. Music devotees will also acknowledge that such releases oftentimes amount to little else but exercises in ego or self-pity.
Vili V, however, doesn’t write songs like he’s taking his temperature. Universal reach distinguishes his musical releases over the last two decades plus. He sets up an ongoing dialogue with his audience rather than merely performing. Vili V also pushes back against the stereotypical fixation on despair, heartache, and hopelessness that defines much of modern songwriting. His latest single “Tupelo Rhythm” from the forthcoming album In Daddy’s Arms Again perpetuates his redemptive vision and delivers a life-affirming message with maximum soul.
The Hamilton, Canada artist opens the track with raw-boned electric guitar riffing and lays down a brisk pace. He tempers the tempo, however, and never rushes the song. Vili V aligns himself with a long tradition of Canadian musical artists embracing the music of the American South without ever smacking of pastiche. Scattered references throughout the lyrics to geography, food, and understated invocations of time-tested blues language never ring false. He has a firm grip on incorporating such callbacks into the fabric of his songwriting. Steady drums swinging just behind the beat give “Tupelo Rhythm” a classic foundation.
He drops rollicking piano into the arrangement as well, especially during the song’s second half. There’s no question that Vili V has an ideal voice for this sort of material. It has a dollop of grit, undoubted lung power, and a convincing emotional range.
The production strikes an arresting balance between the instruments and Vili V’s singing. Every element of the performance exudes warmth and possesses the necessary snap to keep you involved. His songwriting structure doesn’t remake the songwriting wheel, far from it, but it pops with the predictable inevitability that pays off at every turn. We’ve been here before, yes, but Vili V travels through familiar territory with idiosyncratic style, taste, and obvious intelligence. It doesn’t hang around too long either. Some listeners may balk at a four-minute running time, but Vili V develops a slightly larger canvas than usual as a way for the song to reach its full musical potential. There’s no question that it’s a rousing success on that score.
“Tupelo Rhythm” lays Vili V’s heart bare for listeners, but not in the customary fashion. His full-throated love for roots rock comes through loud and clear and tells us more about what has meaning in Vili V’s life than any brooding reflections can ever hope to achieve. He’s been at this for some time now and the new single shows us, if we need evidence, that he’s far from finished.
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