OUT PAST THE WIRES
Welding Rod Records
A Double Album Packed With Quality Heart Breaking Blue Collar Stories.
After a musical career spanning 17 years and 7 albums, it’s difficult to know where to start with singer-songwriter Rod Picott, as he’s been prolific in that time and always gives great value when seen live; plus at least three of his songs are among my favourites of all time; but sung by his best friend Slaid Cleaves.
Hey ho; that’s all in the past and this is his shiny new double album of 22 songs that just may have the capacity to make him leap above his peers in my Singer-Songwriter Top 10.
It came as no real surprise that Disc #1 opens with a delightfully curmudgeonly and clever love song, Be My Bonnie, where Rod sounds uncannily like Kristofferson but with Dylan on harmonica. This is actually a great place to start for new fans as you hear amazing lyrical craft from the opening lines…..”You’ll be my Bonnie/I’ll be your Clyde/We’ll marry our future/and together we’ll ride” through to my personal favourite “Show me your scars Babe/no need to hide/I got a few scars of my own/deep down inside”.
Don’t we all?
The pace suddenly picks up on the Alt. Country Rocker Better Than I Did; which follows and finds Picott snarling the bittersweet lyrics out and punctuating them with some really angry harmonica playing.
Alongside Slaid Cleaves Picott is best known for his ‘Blue Collar’ songs; and no one I’m aware of (inc. B Springsteen & N Young) these days capture that spirit better than these two; the next two songs also feature on Slaid’s last album with Picott making the heart breaking Take Home Pay into a mid-pace Country Rocker that will be perfect for any bar bands out there to cover; and on his Father/Son co-write with Cleaves, Primer Gray the tale of a mutual love of cars becomes a delightful back porch ballad; with a haunting pedal-steel in the background.
I’m normally no lover of double-albums; but here it gives Rod Picott the opportunity to glide seamlessly from trademark acoustic ballads like Holding On and Date of Grace through Soft-Rockers like A Better Man and Coal with practised ease.
Disc #2 treads exactly the same path; with the haunting first song Dead Reckoning yet again proving what a Master Storyteller the man from New Hampshire is.
I don’t own all of Rod’s 7 albums; but it comes as no surprise that in recent years he has turned his hand to writing a screenplay and a book of poems; and there will be a book of short stories fleshing out some of the characters in these songs; and I for one can’t wait to read more about ‘the Mother and Son’ in Store Bought and also the sad and lonely man, Picott sings about in the tragically beautiful Diamonds In The Dirt but Hard Luck Baby very much tells its own tragic Alt. Rocking story of a young woman who “was thirteen when she gave herself her first tattoo” and “When she was sixteen/pulled her braces off/looked like a magazine/But every little hurt/They all add up/Till you’re hard like a diamond.”
See; I told you he is Master Craftsman in songwriting, didn’t I?
After 21 songs that take you on a ragged and rocky emotional roller coaster Picott brings proceedings to a close with a song of hope in a terrible world; or at least that’s how I hear Little Things; perhaps you will hear something different; because that’s what makes Rod Picott one of our generation’s finest songwriters.
So; how the Hell am I supposed to select a Favourite Song when the overall standard is so damn high? Well; I’ve gone a bit left-field with my choice…..Straight Job; is an acoustic Country song worthy of Cash, Bruce or more likely Waylon with Rod inhabiting a musician that knows he has to turn his life around and get a Straight Job as his wife is ill and pregnant, which means he’s finally got to sell his Telecaster and take the proceeds down to the hardware store.
I probably could have thrown a dart at the track list to find my favourite; but this song and the way he sings it probably sums up Rod Picott as much as anything else here or on his previous albums.
I doubt Rod Picott is a millionaire or ever will be; but his songs and in particular the ones on this album will bring more pleasure to people who hear them than all the wealth in the world ever will; but by buying this Double-album you will help put food on his table; and make your own life a little better every time you hear it.
Released February 16th 2018