Vili V has been on the edges of my musical radar for several years as one of the most artful practitioners of roots rock working today. The Canadian performer is prepping for the release of his latest studio album In Daddy’s Arms Again and the single “Tupelo Rhythm” from that collection is ample evidence that he’s still keeping the same prodigious creativity that he has since the late 1990s. “Tupelo Rhythm” is all about the fidelity he feels it’s his duty to keep to the music that first inspired him. It’s about the meaning that this music brings to his life. You can’t help but hear the enthusiasm informing each second of the song and finishing the song left me with a feeling of exhilaration.
Much of that exhilaration comes from Vili V’s vocals. There’s such grab you by the lapel exuberance in his voice that you can’t pay attention to anything else. He achieves a suspension of disbelief with the dramatic and impassioned tone of his voice that everything else except the song fades. You are in his world, taking a scenic musical tour of the Southern locations he invokes with such skill, and reveling in the music. His phrasing peaks at the right moments and he never sings a refrain the same way twice. This impressive vocal dexterity separates him from the pack and has worked as a hallmark for his career.
The lyrics for this track are sharp. No one will mistake the writing for performed poetry but, working in tandem with the music, they achieve a laudably high level. The seemingly stock invocations of traditional rock and blues imagery laced into the lines come across, instead, as a natural outgrowth of Vili’s sentiments. His word choices and the length of the individual lines further reveal that he’s made every effort to tailor the lyrics in a way that best serves the song. There isn’t a single needless word.
Musical highlights are aplenty, but the peaks are the song’s guitar work and the inclusion of piano. The former isn’t omnipresent, but nevertheless flames into life at critical points in the song and riffs with a purist rock and roll vibe. The piano playing takes the spotlight during the song’s final lap and adds an extra layer of physicality to an already engaging tune.
The structure comes straight out of rock and roll 101. It doesn’t make the performance painfully predictable in any way, but you get exactly what you expect from such a song. Vili V executes it with style and polish. Songs such as this appeal to listeners because they hinge on a timeless vibe that cuts across generations rather than exerting a narrow appeal. Vili V has long since mastered how to tap into that feeling.
This single positions In Daddy’s Arms Again as possibly one of his best collections yet. The mounting years have done little or nothing to dispel Vili V’s skill and freshness. “Tupelo Rhythm” proves that he’s still working at the peak of his gifts and will likely continue doing so for a long time to come.