REVIEW: Rod Picott at St Bonaventure's, 4/5, by Keith Clark
WHEN, early in the set, Rod Picott welcomed the audience to his "circus of misery and heartache", we could have been forgiven for expecting the worst. But despite his self-deprecating welcome, Nashville-based Rod's gigs tend to be far from miserable.
And this thoroughly-enjoyable show proved the point.
Rod, a regular visitor to Bristol, brought with him the duo of Doug and Telisha Williams, two thirds of the Nashville band The Wild Ponies.
The pair opened the show with a set that echoed with old-style country and western, bubbly double-bass playing Telisha sometimes sounding like Patsy Cline, particularly on the title track of their new album Things That Used To Shine, while Doug added reverbed guitar.
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It was an enjoyable and impressive set that was far too short, but the duo returned to the stage as the headliner's backing band.
Rod's songs tend to be populated by blue-collar workers, the unemployed, heartbroken lovers and others struggling to make sense of their life.
In the case of songs like Welding Burns, Rust Belt Field and 410 he showed he can compose narratives with the concise eloquence of a seasoned writer of short stories, telling his characters' tales with an empathy that probably comes from having worked on construction sites for many years.
The life of his characters may well be harsh. But in songs like Haunted Man, Circus Girl and, especially, I Might Be Broken Now from his new album Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail, he set their stories to melodies so beautiful that you almost forgot the pain being expressed in the lyrics.
That may all sound pretty bleak, but Rod – who seems to have gained a new confidence as a performer – is an extremely affable man full of funny stories and anecdotes, most of it self-deprecating, and there was more laughter than tears.
The world of Americana music has recognised that Rod is one of the finest singer-songwriters on the scene today.
It really is about time that everybody else caught on to that fact.