Rod Picott was born in the small mill town of South Berwick, Maine where he worked as a construction worker. He’s the kind of blue collar worker Bruce Springsteen sings about but never was. Now in his fifties, Picott has lived in Nashville, TN since 1994.
Raw honesty has always been Picott’s stock in trade so, when he developed serious heart problems in 2018, he was never likely to hide behind a pretence that all was well. In the sleeve notes to A 38 Special & A Hermes Purse he writes that A brush up against mortality can wake some strange truths” and he describes this song as a poem of truth to myself”-
Ghost, the bold opening track of this album, is an equally frank autobiographical song is of a broken man drinking himself to sleep at night who is “hard as nails, thin as hope, I’m the punch line of my own joke”. He reveals these harsh facts not to illicit sympathy but merely to document his own experiences as plainly as possible.
Not all the twelve songs on the album were prompted by his health problems but the scare did prompt a resolve to make a record with a stripped back sound. He recorded all the tracks alone, at home, featuring only acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals. He wasn’t looking for perfection just honesty.
Mama’s Boy was written with Picott’s long-time writing partner Slaid Cleaves and explores issues of masculinity and self identification. There are two other joint compositions: 80 John Wallace co-written with Stacy Dean Campbell and A Beautiful Light, which he wrote with Ben de la Cour. The latter challenges fake country tunes that prettify working class life while the former is named after a prison wing in Texas.
Only Folds In Your Dress could be classified as having a romantic theme but even this is more about longing than loving. In A Guilty Man, Picott doesn’t shy away from confronting his solitary state. In the sleeve notes he says the song was driven by questions like “Why am I alone at 54? Why was there no one holding my hand while I was hooked up to the heart monitors and waiting to hear if a stroke was imminent?”
Thankfully, Picott is now back in rude health although it seems doubtful that his stubbornly independent lifestyle will change much so don’t expect his next release to be full of love songs!
Rod Picott’s website