Twisted in the Vine

Originally from Hebbronville in South Texas, Pake Rossi has spent a good chunk of the last seven years honing his craft in Hill Country honky-tonks and Gulf Coast dives. A serious student of songwriting from the get-go, Rossi’s third album finds the apprentice transitioning to master. Rossi’s lyrical phrasing evokes John Prine (especially on “Hungry Moon”) and his jangling blues tracks featuring lines like “I’ve learned redemption don’t come as a handout” (“Bethann’s Blues”) might’ve been penned by Todd Snider. But comparing Rossi’s sound with big-name Americana wordsmiths doesn’t quite do him (or them) justice. Rossi’s songs of tumbledown characters (“Empty Cupboards”) and blue-collar existential musings feel lived-in, honest, and altogether his own. Twisted in the Vine finds Rossi paired again with David Beck (also of Blue Healer) who produced his sophomore album Mercy of the Mountain. Together they crafted a dynamic album that resonates with tradition while skirting the conventional trappings of the country-folk genre. Key changes, tempo-shifts, and inspired instrumentation (“Lilly of the Valley” and “Big Diamond”) elevate these well-written slivers of life into compositions that are sonically challenging and, ultimately, more rewarding. “Just cause you’re twisted in the vine,” Rossi sings on “Feather Song,” “don’t mean you’re not where you should be.” Judging by this album and how long he’s been at it, Rossi’s artistic abilities are exactly where they should be. — CHRISTIAN WALLACE