Rod Picott. Paper Hearts And Broken Arrows. Welding Rod Records

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Rod Picott has never made a poor album and experience leads one to consider his statement regarding this, his 14th release, where he says “I don’t know if it’s the best album I’ve made but I know it might be” with a pinch of salt. After all, everyone says something of the sort about their latest offering. Nevertheless, Picott might be on to something here as Paper hearts And Broken Arrows, while not breaking much new ground, finds him delivering 12 songs which were all perfectly crafted during lockdown and then burnished to a fine shine by Picott and his spare set of accompanists along with producer Neilson Hubbard.

Picott describes the album as lush and also spare and this dichotomy holds true. When the band are present they are for the most part restrained. This creates a wonderful and warm hearted ambience, an up close and personal listening experience. Even more close up is when Picott plays solo on a couple of the selections; rarely has he sounded so intimate before. The closing number, Make Your Own Light, is a perfect example as he waxes quite brilliantly in a frontier metaphysical fashion asking, essentially,  what makes a man a man.

Ranging across love songs, narratives and personal reflections, there’s plenty of variety on show here. The album opens with a lonesome prairie wail, the singer’s empty heart amplified by the simple piano notes and the far off strains of aching pedal steel on Lover. It’s followed by the much more primal Revenuer with Picott growling over a mighty rumble of slide guitar, piano and drums on an Appalachian tale of moonshiners. The past is also wonderfully evoked in the solo delivery of Frankie Lee, a dirt farmer forced into crime, his story unfolding as he awaits the gallows. A much more recent tragedy is recounted in Picott’s magnificent celebration of the heavyweight boxer Sonny Liston, a man with “two big fists like pumping pistons” but whose triumphs in the ring were undermined by racism and his own demons.

Through The Dark is a full blooded and brooding rock song, delivered in a Springsteen like manner and Dirty T-Shirt finds Picott getting down and dirty indeed without any salaciousness, just an unbridled sense of sensual attraction delivered in a warm and comforting pedal steel sweetened swaddle. Bringing it all back home (and closest to Picott’s reputation as a “blue collar” songwriter) there’s the sepia stained recollections on Lost In the South where Picott sings about his blue collar daddy. Whether it’s autobiographical remains to be seen but it’s a striking song, stuffed full of arresting images. It’s followed by the spare colourings of Mark Of Your Father, a song which portrays a darker side of fatherhood, laid bare in the last verse which refers to the filicide of Marvin Gaye.

Whether this is Picott’s masterpiece is a tale yet to be told but Paper Hearts And Broken Arrows stands tall in its own right and posits him as one of the best singer songwriters around these days.

 

 

 

 

 

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