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Trust to kill

Rocco DeLuca getting help from famous friends

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You may have seen him on YouTube, screaming like a man with his foot caught in a bear trap. In what sounds like some sort of passive suicide attempt, he's announcing that he trusts you to kill him. What may confuse you even more is what Kiefer Sutherland is doing introducing the clip, talking in glowing terms about a guy with some kind of bizarre death wish who plays the dobro and screams like Led Zep's Robert Plant.

But you're not the only one confused. So is Sutherland, who admits on camera at one point, "I have no idea what we're doing." But luckily for all concerned, Rocco DeLuca does.

The clip is a trailer for the documentary, I Trust You To Kill Me, which promotes DeLuca's new record, I Trust You To Kill Me. Sutherland is on board as owner of the record company Ironworks and has just signed DeLuca and his band The Burden to the label. "He's kind of playing their tour manager," producer Jude Cole says in the documentary.

As for exactly what he's managing, there seems to be even more confusion. Despite the Robert Plant soundalike part, you wouldn't call DeLuca a bluesman in any conventional sense of the word. Maybe it's the dobro that throws people in that direction.

From an early age, he was surrounded by a variety of stringed instruments. His dad was a touring guitarist for Bo Diddley. "I started playing slide on all the regular guitars," DeLuca said by phone from his L.A. home. "I would start tuning them to banjo tunings and eventually I just saved up enough money, when I was about 14, to buy my own dobro." Dobro is also a prime ingredient in bluegrass, and the guitarist was drawn to that as well through the music of Doc Watson and Bill Monroe.

The music that DeLuca plays is neither blues nor bluegrass. Big, bouncy guitar-driven rock propels "Colorful" with Zep frontman vocals. "I love Led Zeppelin," he says. "They're just a true treasure."

"Swing Low" sounds like the North Mississippi Allstars in a head-on collision with Zep. "Gravity" is bigfoot stomp rock with crunchy guitars chewing up the scenery as DeLuca howls like Plant with his pants afire.

It's not all rockstar fodder. "Dope" has DeLulca ringing the dobro like a chime backed by a kick drum sounding like a cannon, with vocals like Mississippi John Hurt on acid, intercut by a dreamy chorus. "Draw" is T. Rex meets The Beatles, backed by Mountain.

But the blues image lingers. Naming a band The Burden sounds like a blues outfit. "It was a joke among my friends that every time I'd go to play somewhere, I'd be carrying this huge burden cause I was a little ambitious in what I was trying to relate," DeLuca says. "No one would really get this, and I was wasting my time so I thought The Burden would be a good name for the band."

And as for the I want you to kill me thing, DeLuca says its not a bluesman's death wish-it's about art vs. commerce. He says putting out his debut record was tough and he didn't want anybody critiquing it, trusting friends to give him an honest opinion. "I was just kind of taking the piss out of everybody right out of the gate: I trust you to kill me. I hope you do it, because I need it to be done, I need to get through this somehow, so just put it on me."

With Sutherland running interference, he's gotten though it pretty well. The documentary played in New York and L.A. to rave reviews and "Colorful" is heading up the charts. He's pleased with the results and with Sutherland, who he describes as a "down-to-earth, hard-working person; his work ethic, the way he lives, is very blue collar."

DeLuca had another encounter with a blue-collar celebrity when he got a chance to hang out with Johnny Cash for a month with Carlene Carter's daughter and got some words to live by. "I remember him saying to somebody who was talking about why they couldn't get this and they couldn't get that and Johnny finally said, 'Well, if you worried about being an artist more than you did about being famous, you might actually grow.'"

With Sutherland's backing, he's got a good chance at staying around for awhile. "We started this together as partners," says DeLuca. "We were just kind of stumbling along and failing a lot together." Now the two share a laugh because they've fallen so many times. "But," he says, "we get back up."

Rocco DeLuca and The Burden play Amos' Southend on Wednesday, April 18 at 10 p.m. Tickets are $15.

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