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Sunday, July 26, 2015

a home for the americana diaspora
July 25, 2015
Scott Foley

If Rod Picott had written only "Tiger Tom Dixon", he'd still be worthy of our praise.  The fact that that classic has been followed by "Sinner's Prayer", "Welding Burns" and "65 Falcon" only adds to his case.  I've tended to sort Picott into the Earnest, Bearded Acoustic Songwriter bin with other talents like Jeffrey Foucault or Slaid Cleaves (with whom Picott wrote "Sinner's Prayer").  It's a pretty big bin.  With his 7th full length release, Fortune, Rod Picott manages to both meet and exceed my expectations.  As a known songwriting quantity, it's no surprise that he lays down some tremendous lyrics (though I'd argue that he's surpassed his personal record for sheer excellence with Fortune).  The welcome unexpected element comes with the collection's raw production and gritty arrangements.  Fact is, I might have trouble identifying the worn and sandpapery voice that growls throughout Fortune as Picott's if the CD jacket didn't tell me so.  The newfound gravel is especially appropriate given the heartbreak, disappointment and existential woe that permeates the new songs.  For god's sake, here's Fortune's opening salvo, on a piece called "Maybe That's What It Takes":
You could have let me fall a little softer than that
You didn't need the rag, the gasoline or the match
... and the chorus:
It's not that I ever stopped loving you
I just quit waiting for you to love me too
Jeez, that smarts.  As the man behind the Circus of Misery and Heartbreak, Picott has never plied his wares on the sunny side of the street.  Nevertheless, after the 12 wonderfully brutal songs on Fortune, it's a wonder the man's able to leave the ring under his own power.  Fortunately, like Dave Alvin or Fred Eaglesmith, Rod Picott does depressing so very beautifully:
I tried to be someone you could be proud of
But you always let me know I was not worth your love 
I drove home from the station with the CD playing, shaking my head at the plight of this poor bastard, but nodding in agreement with his hard won wisdom.  File "I Was Not Worth Your Love" alongside John Moreland's "You Don't Care For Me Enough To Cry" as among the year's bleakest moments.  Unlike Moreland's hushed delivery and sparse arrangement, Picott drives through his song on an upbeat and reckless electric guitar.  Similarly, "Elbow Grease" and the darkly sinister "Uncle John" are deceptively upbeat, similar to the shambling gutbucket arrangements of Ray Wylie Hubbard or Fred Eaglesmith.  "Drunken Barber's Hand" and "Spare Change" strike a more subtle chord, but deliver an equivalent emotional impact.  Picott's everyman has been given a raw deal, but he soldiers on with a workingman's resignation:
God's gifts they come down small
Babies and diamonds and spare change
 Also on the Episode, a couple debuts from acts that occupy the rock side of the roots equation in Blitzen Trapper and Futurebirds.  We also herald the return of Martha Scanlon, alongside members of Decemberists, Black Prairie, Dolorean and more.  Plus, since Ronnie Fauss was in the studio with me for this week's Wednesday Morning Mix (catch it alternating Wednesday mornings from 8-10am), we enjoy a great and sad song from his earlier catalog.

* Victoria Williams, "You R Loved"  Loose  (Mammoth, 94)
* Lucero, "Went Looking For Warren Zevon's Los Angeles"  All a Man Should Do  (ATO, 15)
* Brent Best, "Aunt Ramona"  Your Dog, Champ  (Last Chance, 15)
* Revivalists, "Bulletproof"  Men Amongst Mountains  (Wind Up, 15)
* Tallest Man On Earth, "Seventeen"  Dark Bird Is Home  (Dead Oceans, 15)
* Danny & the Champions Of the World, "This Is Not a Love Song"  What Kind Of Love  (Loose, 15)
* Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats, "S.O.B."  Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats  (Stax, 15)  C
* Samantha Crain, "If I Had a Dollar"  Under Branch & Thorn & Tree  (Full Time Hobby, 15)
^ Rod Picott, "I Was Not Worth Your Love"  Fortune  (Welding Rod, 15)  D
* Have Gun Will Travel, "Spirit Of Discovery"  Science From An Easy Chair  (This Is American Music, 15)
* Jayhawks, "Come To the River"  Rainy Day Music  (American, 03)
* Blitzen Trapper, "Lonesome Angel"  All Across This Land  (Vagrant, 15)  D
* Honeycutters, "Me Oh My"  Me Oh My  (Organic, 15)
* Milk Carton Kids, "Shooting Shadows"  Monterey  (Anti, 15)
* Martha Scanlan, "Honey Blue"  Shape Of Things Gone Missing Shape Of Things To Come  (Up On the Divide, 15)  D
* Langhorne Slim & the Law, "Spirit Moves"  Spirit Moves  (Dualtone, 15)
* Lee Bains III & Glory Fires, "Sweet Disorder"  single  (Sub Pop, 15)
* Hollis Brown, "Sweet Tooth"  3 Shots  (Julian, 15)
* Futurebirds, "Twentyseven"  Hotel Parties  (Easy Sound, 15)  D
* Tift Merritt, "Shadow In the Way"  Tambourine  (Lost Hwy, 04)
* Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin, "Feeling Happy"  Lost Time  (Yep Roc, 15)
* Warren Haynes w/Railroad Earth, "New Year's Eve"  Ashes & Dust  (Concord, 15)
* Anderson East, "Keep the Fire Burning"  Delilah  (Elektra, 15)
* Mike Coykendall, "In the Summertime"  HalfPastPresentPending  (Fluff & Gravy, 15)
* Daniel Romano, "If I've Only One Time Askin'"  If I've Only One Time Askin'  (New West, 15)
* Ronnie Fauss, "Saddest Love That's Ever Been Made"  The Sun Is Shining Somewhere But Somewhere Isn't Here  (Catapult, 12)
* Steelism, "Tintagel"  The Drawing Room, Vol. 1  (Intoxicating Sounds, 15)
* Kent Goolsby & Gold Standard, "Big Old World Blues"  No Substitute For Handsome  (TOY, 15)

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