Daniel Rodriguez “Vast Nothing”

Independent, 2023

An album that sounds better the closer it gets to stripped down.

Daniel Rodriguez was a founding member of Elephant Revival, and this new solo album was produced by Darren Garvey who played alongside Rodriguez in that band.  The songs on ‘Vast Nothing‘ came, Rodriguez says, “out of the last few years, which needless to say. were quite dynamic and challenging.”  The album opener was written the day that John Prine died and the finger-picked folk of ‘Through the Static‘ can be heard as something of a eulogy, as Rodriguez sings of wanting to hear something that connects and has a reality.  It’s warm rather than mournful and is all the better for that.  Not all the challenges that Rodriguez alludes to are necessarily pandemic related – he effectively left Elephant Revival in 2018 and it’s possible to read ‘Pride and Truth‘ as a partial reflection on this – with truth digging itself into a pit whilst pride attempts to carry on singing.  Of course this pacey countrified song might be alluding to something completely different as truth literally undermines pride.  It’s hard to say, but the lyrical interplay at least sparks some thought.

The same can’t really be said for the bouncing funky ‘Wild Horse‘ which asks a lot of questions about the dynamics of a relationship but seems to get no further than if you love somebody set them free.  There’s a lot of polish on the song which almost strays into yacht rock territory – radio-friendly certainly.  The acoustic ‘Rooftops‘ reins in the gloss somewhat, adding fiddle and banjo to the acoustic guitar strum and later percussive handclaps which do little to illuminate the obscure lyrics: “Way back to the feeling of nostalgia / We were living on the run / Sunlight the shadow of a memory / Moonlight a poem tucked inside a box.”  The title track is a philosophy for life – there are short-lived flickering lights, there are lives too brief, and there’s a need to “fly if you’re not afraid of falling  / so when you fall don’t be afraid at all / You can live but you know you’re going to be dying / So when you give you got to give your all.”  Indeed – carpe that diem.  It’s pretty enough, even if the truisms are not exactly startling in their insight.

The album closer ‘Wheels Fell off the World‘ cleverly addresses all possible apocalypses both personal and global, alluding to global pandemics and pandemics of poverty “food lines that go so far you can’t see the end.”  It’s a song that’s carried on a restrained arrangement that suits the song’s seriousness, still beautifully produced but the polish is less visible and the emotion in Daniel Rodriguez’s vocal rings truer.

For ‘Vast Nothing‘ it comes down to how much grit one feels a song requires, for fans of highly polished singer-songwriters then this may all be more pleasing than the score below suggests – this reviewer doesn’t mind hearing the occasional crack in the voice if it conveys a striving for a greater passion.


About Jonathan Aird 2506 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.