Album Review | Welding Rod Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5
This is as intimate as it gets with Rod Picott wearing his heart very much on his sleeve, courtesy of a dozen songs recorded in the rawest of forms, one man, one guitar and a bit of haunting harmonica. Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil doesn’t for one second set out to masquerade as a polished album, but strives to present itself as an infinitely more honest record of his feelings, stripped down to basics. The subjects raised benefit from this paired down record, with an emphasis on every single syllable uttered, rather than worrying oneself about a bit of tuned percussion over here in this channel.
“I lost a couple of high notes from the top of my voice” is a fine opening line, which not only reflects all the moaning Picott has apparently been doing, but also a reflection of his age (early 50s). There’s a sense that the Maine-born, now Nashville-based songwriter is having a good old hard look at himself after a recent health scare. Rod looks back and reminisces about childhood, helping his father bail out their flooded cellar in “Bailing”, the harsh reality of suicide – his own as suggested in “A 38 Special and a Hermes Purse” as well as that of a childhood peer “Mark” whose short life ran parallel to the Kennedy assassination and key moments in The Beatles’ story, together with a meditation on Rod’s place among a lineage of testosterone-fueled fighters in “Mama’s Boy.”
Written for the most part by himself, with three of the songs co-written by Slaid Cleaves “Mama’s Boy”, Ben de la Cour “A Beautiful Light” and Stacy Dean Campbell “80 John Wallace”, who presumably provide all those important finishing touches, the songs on Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil shows us an artist holding a mirror up, all of which he will no doubt share as he takes to the road again, reminding us that it “still beats the hell out of hanging sheetrock.” Amen to that.
Choice Track: “Mark” (NSV 486)