Often when I’m on my way to a gig with my better half, Richard, we ponder as to how many ‘music pals’ will be at the show... on the train to London to see Rod Picott we deliberated and thought that we’d see John, Jim, Mike C and possibly Paul T. Much to our delight they were all in attendance alongside Mary as well as Andy, and Ronnie who had travelled all the way from Holland…a pretty good turnout and testament to the fact that Picott has garnered lots of fans since first touring here and in continental Europe a good number of years ago.
I’ll ‘fess up at the outset and say that I was one of the (fan) contributors who helped Picott record his new album HANG YOUR HOPES ON A CROOKED NAIL. He was seeking $25,000 from backers but ended the fund raising campaign with just over $37,000 pledged from 318 sponsors. A terrific result for this most unassuming of musicians and I hope that it made him realise just how much he’s adored by his fan base. Picott has forged a career as a highly respected writer, collaborating with another favourite of mine, Slaid Cleaves, but he’s still flying under the radar and deserves to be much more widely known…I say that about a lot of musicians I like…
In London he was backed by Doug and Telisha Williams (aka The Gun Shy Dogs) who accompanied him on acoustic and electric guitar, and upright bass and vocals respectively. A pretty much full room at ‘The Lamb’, a basement venue with a great vibe, an audience who was certainly ‘up for it’ showed its appreciation by not only asking for requests but also joining in, singing along to the encore at the end of the night.
The set list incorporated a mix of the familiar from earlier albums and a selection of songs from the new one. He called this tour ‘The Circus of Misery and Heartbreak’ and whilst his writing is certainly rooted in the struggles of blue-collar workers (he was a sheet rock hanger – a plasterer in UK parlance – before becoming a full time musician) his between song stories and asides are full of good humour and a self-deprecating wit. The evening was not in the least bit miserable!
Listening beforehand to HANG YOUR HOPES ON A CROOKED NAIL I found it to be something of a slow burner, not as immediate as his previous releases but repeated listening has paid off and it is most definitely in my top 10 albums of the year. Some of it draws on the break up with his long time girlfriend and as is so often the case, these songs, a universal theme, are some of his strongest. I defy you not to be moved by Just A Memory and You’re Not Missing Anything
As an onstage performer, Picott’s confidence has grown over the years; he plays in excess of a hundred shows a year and his voice is full of gritty warmth - as his good friend Slaid Cleaves justifiably said ‘beautiful and heartbreaking songs - one of the best on the Americana and folk scene’. Jela Webb