Rod Picott, The Prince Albert (Brighton, UK 10/27/11)
Touring behind the recent release of his latest album WELDING BURNS Rod Picott, a regular and welcome visitor to Brighton over the years, opened with the title track in front of a warmly receptive audience. In the course of conversations during the evening I discovered that some had already seen him more than once on his current 18-date UK tour and others were planning on seeing him again before the tour ended on the 30th in Twickenham, London. That gives you a measure of the respect accorded to one of America’s most talented, yet highly underrated songwriters. Known for his strongly narrative style, Picott ‘s songs tells stories that never flinch away from portraying the hardships experienced by the segment of society referred to as blue-collar workers.
Since giving up his own blue-collar job in construction as a sheetrock hanger (that’s a plasterer in UK parlance) ten years ago, Picott has carved a career that has seen him move to Nashville, tour with Alison Krauss, co-write with, amongst others, Slaid Cleaves and Fred Eaglesmith, release a number of highly rated albums and turn his hand to producing – Cleaves’ 2008 critically acclaimed UNSUNG featured Picott in the producer’s role. Touring extensively, Picott has built a solid fan base including one Bob Harris of the BBC, for whom he is recording a session during the current tour, which will be aired, on national radio, in December.
‘Welcome to Rod Picott’s Circus of Misery and Unemployment’ he joked as he introduced his second song and proceeded to play two sets of material whose subject matter often exposes the grim reality of life on the margins. However, the honesty of his self-effacing delivery gives the songs an authenticity that draws you in to the lives of the characters he sings about. You find yourself empathising with those who find themselves struggling with the vagaries of a changing world – in Rust Belt Fields the consequences of jobs being outsourced to Mexico and China; in 410 the protagonist, now unemployed who turns to armed robbery and in Broke Down the story of Billy and Sherry’s ‘love grown cold’. Picott’s version of Broke Down is performed in a much slower tempo than co-writer Cleaves’ version and as such seems to hit home that much harder.
The songs in the first set were introduced with related stories and of particular poignancy was the introduction to Your Father’s Tattoo the first song he wrote for his own father. Picott related how as a young child he was fascinated by the tattoos sported by his father, a former Marine and a man of few words.
The second set opened with Stray Dogs and also included the first song he and Cleaves wrote together – Wrecking Ball. Conscious that there was an 11pm curfew, he chatted less between songs and didn’t ‘massage his ego’ by stopping only to return for an encore; he played straight through finishing with River Runs.
Picott stripped down with just an acoustic guitar and his songs, holds an audience with ease although he’d probably say that he works hard to achieve that connection between artist and fan. A gentle personality, shy by nature but get him up on a stage and he is one of the best singer/songwriters on the circuit. I’ve been attending his shows ever since he first starting touring the UK and there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll continue doing just that. A class act. Jela Webb