Steadily Rod Picott has come up on the inner track to catch up with his better known peers in the school of hard knocks singer/songwriter stakes. Welding Burns and Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail were very fine albums, Picott weaving blue collar tales with a sense of grit and determination while able also to draw tender portraits of love gone wrong. Fortune builds on the strengths of those albums with Picott attempting to place more of himself into the songs as opposed to his snapshots of the current state of the ragged ass union. Fear not however, this is no exercise in navel gazing as several of the songs here maintain his ability to paint a vivid portrait as on the war widow’s farewell to her dead soldier on Jeremiah and the clattering tribute to the ‘ornery Uncle John.
Recorded quickly as Picott wanted to capture the immediacy of the performances in the studio the album seesaws between his gentler soloish performances and the gutsier band pieces. Here he’s ably assisted by the ubiquitous Will Kimborough on guitars (including oil can guitar!), Lex Price on bass and co-producer Neilson Hubbard (another name that is coming up increasingly) on drums. If there’s a theme to the album (and Picott says that the songs are about the sense of chance) then his view seems to be that we are playing with loaded dice as the players here all seem to be on the losing end. The suitor kneeling before his would be queen on the folky Maybe That’s What it Takes sees his dreams burned down while I was Not Worth Your Love is somewhat akin to a supplicant yelling I am not worthy before an idol not worthy of his praise. In a way Picott is furthering his broken love songs from the Crooked Nail album here, we mentioned back then that Roy Orbison seemed to inhabit the song All The Broken Parts and here Picott again plugs into that raw emotion on Secret Heart, his voice almost a crooner over his delicate guitar and Kimborough’s excellent and refrained shimmerings. Kimborough shines again on the wonderful closing song, Spare Change which, aside from the wonderful playing, captures Picott, the wordsmith, at his best.
There is some rollicking here and some humour. Uncle John “drinks his beer from a can cause bottles break/nine fingers from one mistake.” Elbow Grease has Picott mythologizing his life over a cracking country rock beat (with Kimborough again in fine form) as he recalls his failures and sings on the chorus “How’d a wreck like me even get this far/One more chance is all I need/I got a lucky charm and elbow grease.” We get some soulful blues on the slinky Until I’m Satisfied and a tremendous rewrite of Hank Williams’ Ramblin’ Man on the apocalyptic and surreal Drunken Barber’s Hand that is somewhat fabulous.
Rod Picott is touring the UK in January and February with a Celtic Connections appearance on 25th January at The Royal Concert Hall. All dates here