Much time was spent in the summer wrestling with Rod Picott's new album. Reviews complementing such a contemplative personal effort tallied up, yet to this date TELL THE TRUTH & SHAME THE DEVIL remains a tough listen. There is still an element that the album had to be made and that it would be dealt to listeners with a 'take or leave it' tag. My utmost respect for Rod Picott, one of the most sincerest and highly crafted singer-songwriters around, has been solid since first discovering his work a decade ago. Although it had to be concluded that maybe his most connective work with listeners is found in material that comes across as less intense.
The personal background to the album's recording process was candid in the notes accompanying the release and it was similar as he took to the stage to share songs with an audience as the concluding part to Bewdley's American Epic weekend. If thoughts of an audience being the missing piece in the record still prevail, such notions evaporate when Rod Picott does what singer-songwriters do best; present their songs live.
Throughout the duration of his time on stage at St.George's Hall, Picott charmed, engaged and rallied an audience around his sincerity. The major blessing was seeing an artist fighting back from troubled times and possessing a renewed vitality that was prevalent on the five previous occasions I have seen him play live. The first of those was many years ago with his ex-partner Amanda Shires, although he might have been stretching things a little when impishly expressing that his album is better than The Highwomen.
Inter-song chat weaved between the irreverent and the lifelong influences that have inspired his dedication to an art form alien to what was expected from his upbringing. There was a stirring mixture of songs stretching the Rod Picott repertoire, from the title track of his first album 'Tiger Tom Dixon Blues' to a liberal smattering from the latest effort. To be fair when the new songs were taken out of the context of listening in a stripped backed collective form, they took on a whole new life. 'Folds of Your Dress', 'Spartan Hotel','Ghost' and 'A 38 Special & A Hermes Purse' may yet ascend to the status of their many predecessors.
Older efforts like 'Welding Burns', '65 Falcon' and '410', frame an air of familiarity about Rod Picott. A reassuring constant in a changing world. His warmth shone through as well as a fascinating insight to what life on the road is life. A 7 1/2 drive in the States may be staple, but one from Montrose to Bewdley on tight UK roads is a different beast.
While St.George's Hall has been a welcoming host to many touring Americana artists over the last couple of years, this evening's show was part of a separate venture to the usual presentation. The Rod Picott gig was the final event of an American Epic weekend, which included a full large screen showing of the acclaimed historical music series of the same name, associated events around the production and wider themed activities across the town over the Friday and Saturday. The organisers deemed Rod Picott as the epitome of American songwriting roots and the ideal live act to close this section of a wider Bewdley Festival that swings into gear later in October. Those in attendance would have few reasons to disagree.
Despite my lukewarm response to the latest record, Rod Picott's legacy is still intact. Ultimately, it was known that any doubts would be cast aside. Hope exists that he will remain a prolific figure of sincere songwriting music and that maybe his best years are still to come, albeit with both aspects of art - the creative and the experiencer - delicately aligned.
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