David Vaters may fall into the category of new solo artist, although he’s anything but new to making music, but he also falls in with a small band of artists who have a unique sound and singular voice. Not as avant-garde as Tom Waits or as tragically romantic as Leonard Cohen, nor as bombastic as Springsteen or as seemingly commercially minded as the likes of Billy Joel but no less impactful and certainly essential in these days largely dominated by throwaway music. Indeed right from the opening salvo of this, the first of a double release under the Voice in The Wilderness title, you feel that there is something important being laid down here.
It seems as if these days you could throw a rock in any direction and not fail to hit some college drop out with a wide brimmed hat and an acoustic guitar using the cover of singer-songwriter to impart the sum total of his wisdom to us, adding nothing to either part of that musical title. David Vaters, however, just drips with experience, authenticity and more than anything passion for his chosen path. What sets him apart from the aforementioned over-earnest indie hipster are those years spent on stages and tours, in studios and sessions on both sides of the Atlantic not only learning his trade but also honing his own worldview.
Faith runs through the heart of the music but never in an evangelical way, more a man having a conversation with the world around him, call that dialogue what you will…. be it love, destiny, karma, god or maybe just your own heart. It’s Time plays across a large musical stage, sweeping strings, tumbling drums and an understated yet powerful piano build anticipation and slow burning atmospherics then crescendo and finally silence as the message sinks in.
Take the element of faith out of the equation if you are that way inclined and David Vaters still has something to say on a secular level. Cohen told us that everybody knows the dice are loaded, Dylan that the times are a-changing, Steve Earle that the revolution stars now, David Vaters is merely adding his weight to an impending struggle both in the physical world and within ourselves.
Elsewhere he catches a more Neil Young vibe; God Help Me Out and particularly the naked beauty of Brighter Than The Stars would fit effortlessly into that fellow Canadians back catalogue. But name-dropping seems like an easy cop out but I do so not so much to find easy sonic comparisons but to try to communicate some of the pathos and integrity which lies at the heart of the songs. Few capture it so brilliantly and throwing heavy weight names about seems the only weapon in my journalistic armoury to properly underline this compelling aspect of David Vaters music.
Of course the great thing about putting the hours (…days, weeks, months, years…) in, making music for another man’s cause before you put your own name on the front of a record, is that you don’t have to do your growing up in public. A Voice in The Wilderness is nothing if not mature, deftly crafted and powerful and it certainly fast tracks him to a seat in that very special huddle that I have constantly been alluding to. And if this is the first album of his out of the starting blocks, at least in a titular sense, imagine what gems are likely to follow. Another musician’s name to add to my “first day purchase” list and I’m happy to have him aboard.