Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rod Picott - Fortune

Four or five years ago, I went to Nashville's 3rd and Lindsley to hear DADDY, the collaboration between Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack. I didn't know if an opener was also scheduled but arrived in plenty of time just in case. I didn't catch the singer's name as it was announced, and none of the songs were familiar to me - though I dug what he was playing.

He then caught my ear with his performance of a song I did recognize: Slaid Cleaves' Broke Down. Following his set, I had a couple of moments to chat with him as DADDY was setting up.

I introduced myself to the songwriter I then learned was Rod Picott (web | Twitter) and complimented him on his cover of Slaid's song. He politely but directly replied he had written the song and was good friends with Slaid. DOH! A bit of an awkward opening. I pleaded my ignorance, and we concluded all was good. Another "all good" thing I learned over time was a bit more of Picott's music.

Rod has released about a half-dozen albums over the past 15 years. Most of his songs have been about telling stories, making observations, reflecting on the lives of others, etc.

Hard to believe, but 2015 has now edged solidly into fall with winter at the end of the driveway. Darkness arrives a bit earlier and stays later, and daylight is often experienced as gray light. That seasonal change seems to reflect the mood of Picott's recent new release, Fortune.

Rather than another album's worth of songs about others, Fortune reflects much more of an introspective look by the songwriter. About half the album's twelve songs were recorded in one day, and the remaining ones were wrapped-up over the following two weeks.

Picott recorded his songs in an open room along with guitarist Will Kimbrough, bassist Lex Price, and drummer Neilson Hubbard (who also produced the album). The purpose for the recording location and the expediency of tracking the songs was to provide an album somewhat akin to what one gets from a live Rod Picott show.

You aren't getting party music with Fortune. The songs likely will not lead you to sing them in the shower or practice your steering wheel drumming skills. But from start to finish, the album commands deliberate, intentional listening and repeated plays. A few highlights from the album include...

Elbow Grease, the album's second track. Picott includes themes about his life - that introspective look he wanted to capture on the album - with references to his father, his struggles as a songwriter, the tenacity to stay in The Business, and the luck needed to make all of the pieces come together.

Lord, help me find where I belong
I broke my back trying to find that song
Threw a straight right just to keep some pride
I gave the middle finger to the hurt inside

We all have that nutjob relative within our family tree. Or maybe not a crazy one but one that's a bit off or dysfunctional when it comes to relationships (mine is named Luther or maybe it's ME). Uncle John may well be one of Picott's uncles. Perhaps he is a composite of folks distilled into one individual for the benefit of a song. Either way, life seems to be all about family relationships - some strong, frayed, elastic, dysfunctional, transparent, sequestered, etc.

Though many of the album's songs may be considered contemplative or even somber lyrically, Uncle John brings out a good laugh - as do many of Rod's stories during his live performances.

Drinks beer from a can 'cause bottles break
Nine fingers and one mistake
Plaid shirt, Carhartt pants
He ain't never been to a singles' dance

Jeremiah is sung from the perspective of the wife or girlfriend of a soldier who never made it home. The band sits this one out. It's simply Picott, his guitar, and his haunting narrative.

They say you died out in the desert
With a name I can't pronounce
I can't remember if I said I Love You
That don't matter now

Sisters cry and dads can't speak
Girls like me sleep alone
A mother's work is never done
Soldiers don't come home

Fortune can be purchased at Picott's website or others including iTunes and Amazon. Also, Picott is a touring machine. Those out west may be able to catch one of his shows in November. In December, he piles into a van with Decembersongs, a loose knit East Nashville foursome of Amy Speace, Doug and Telisha Williams from Wild Ponies, and Picott. The four of them tell stories, play several non-Christmas songs, and then share a few holiday favorites. It's a show not to be missed if you have the good Fortune of them visiting your town.


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