Wednesday, 21 March 2018

GIG REVIEW: Rod Picott - The Musician, Leicester. Tuesday 20th March 2018

Rod Picott is the trusty troubadour whose art never subsides from a lofty plateau. Whether immersing in the creative process or presenting his material on the road, consistency has been the badge of honour proudly worn across the continents. Throughout a lengthy and humbled song-writing career, this Maine native has long defied the notion of heart and soul being the sole instigator of the moving song. Framing an image of muscle, toughness and a philosophical perceptive field has proved a fertile strand of influence across a conveyor belt of records and shows over many years. If anything, the output is likely to escalate, with the written word now spreading from literally hundreds of songs to poetry, screenplay and a fledgling novel. Amidst this prolific period, trips to regular haunts this side of the pond are still on the agenda, with the city of Leicester welcoming Rod Picott back after a few blank years.

Although his association with our country stretches back a lot further, the Musician hosted my first Rod Picott gig back in 2012. Collaborations have altered since that show with Amanda Shires, and it is the solo mode, which houses him these days. This latest visit to the UK coincides with the release of his latest double record, OUT PAST THE WIRES and a few tracks from it were shared among a string of old favourites.

Rod was certainly in a chipper mood, buoyed by the hotel upgrade and perhaps at ease in the comforting environment of playing songs to a familiar audience. Throughout the hour and a quarter stage time, relaxed anecdotes weaved in between the impassionedly strummed tunes, all wrapped in an industrial haze. The almost total lopsided tilt away from the happy song resonates well with serious song writing connoisseurs. There is almost a precedent of getting ‘Angels and Acrobats’ swiftly out the way, but it long remains a staple of a Rod Picott set and possesses a strong melody to retain its eminence.

It would be accurate to state that Rod has had some of his finest song writing moments to date in unison with his long-term pal Slaid Cleaves. We had an interesting insight to the brilliant and inspirational ‘Broke Down’ this evening with the revelation of it being in strong consideration for a Dixie Chicks cut in their heyday. Herein lays the consequence that Travelodge and Premier Inn still dominate the touring accommodation chat many years later. 

Much loved oldies like ‘Welding Burns’ and ‘Rust Belt Fields’ never lose their sheen and more recent material such as ‘Take Home Pay’, ‘Primer Gray’ and ‘On the Way Down’ are likely to ascend to such status given time. Introductions tended to border on the conversational irreverent rather than informed insights, maybe due to a perception of familiarity on both sides.

You get the impression that new fans find the work of Rod Picott as they enter a phase of maturity, not necessarily in age, but definitely in outlook. A rock solid reliability has been in place for a long time and trends find this artist rather than vice versa.

Other excellent songs to add to the evening’s enjoyment included ‘410’, ‘Until I’m Satisfied’ and the spiritually captive ‘Elbow Grease’. There was even time for a request in the encore slot in ‘Circus Girl’.

While the latter song referenced a slot opening for Alison Krauss, the bill this evening was enriched by the East Midlands tones of Paul McClure. In a familiar and popular style mixing wit and the articulate song, the warm up slot evolved into its own entity, appreciated by Rod as well as those wisely choosing the backstreets of Leicester for their Tuesday evening entertainment. The charity single ‘Baby That’s You’ rounded off an enjoyable set in true singalong fashion endorsing the good banter of rivalry.

You do not have to dig too deep to find the synergy between Paul McClure and Rod Picott; a staunch belief that the magic of song will ultimately win the day. Our stateside guest is forever appreciative of the opportunities that have made one dedicated artist able to make a move from a tough real world job to one which still presents challenges, albeit fruitful ones to scale. In a year where Sam Baker and Hayes Carll have already crossed my path in the first quarter, the reassuring compatibility of Rod Picott strengthens the touring American song writing fraternity considerably.

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