Rod Picott, Starlight Tour Review
Rod Picott’s Starlight Tour – A Vocal Expedition Into Mortality and Grace
By Rudy Palma
Rod Picott, a weathered troubadour with a penchant for narrative storytelling, is back at it again with his fifteenth studio album, Starlight Tour. Produced by Neilson Hubbard, a name synonymous with eminent artists like John Prine and Lucinda Williams, Picott’s latest venture is less a divergence from his previous works and more a matured synthesis of his lifelong experiences.
Picott, who’s crafted songs that have graced TV shows and films, is no slouch when it comes to songwriting. After 23 years of road-living and 15 albums, most artists might find themselves scraping the bottom of the creative barrel. Not so for Picott. His engine, fueled by his years as a construction worker and two-decades-plus in the Nashville scene, is far from sputtering out.
Listening to this album through my KEF LS50 speakers, driven by the NAD C368 amplifier, I’m notably captivated by the engineering of Picott’s vocals. Hubbard excels in creating a sonic path that melds seamlessly with the album’s thematic weight. The musicians—Lex Price on bass and mandolin, Juan Solorzano on guitars and keys, and Hubbard behind the drum kit—serve as more than instrumentalists; they act as the sonic parchment that frames Picott’s vocal chronicles.
The opening track, “Next Man In Line,” is a poignant homage to Picott’s ailing father. The vocals are a marriage of simplicity and authenticity. Picott’s diction is immaculate, every syllable perfectly enunciated without appearing forced. His timbre, imbued with a ‘guy-next-door’ quality, wraps around the words, lending them both warmth and urgency. For audiophiles who appreciate unvarnished vocal clarity, this is a piece to dissect and savor.
“Television Preacher” is a song where Picott sketches a vivid portrait of a family duped by a televangelist. Vocally, what strikes me is his controlled restraint. He employs staccato phrasing, elongating notes only for emphasis. He’s narrating a tale without dipping into melodrama, making each word count. The vocal delivery here mimics his writing style, and that’s not just good—that’s fascinatingly brilliant.
“Pelican Bay” showcases Picott’s signature melancholic lyricism, while his vocals deftly encapsulate the grim essence of the story he tells. With a gravelly timbre that navigates the song’s emotional landscape, Picott displays expert control over vocal dynamics. When he croons, ‘watching birds dive on Pelican Bay,’ the listener is irresistibly drawn into the song’s somber atmosphere. The nuanced subtlety in his vocal delivery is sure to give you goosebumps. To truly appreciate the depth of his vocal craft, I highly recommend listening through a pair of high-quality headphones.
Picott might claim, “You spend a lyric once; you can’t spend it again, pal,” but this album begs to differ. Starlight Tour is audio proof that sometimes, the ‘been there, done that’ approach can produce gems, especially when it comes from a veteran songwriter who knows his craft inside out.
Ultimately, Starlight Tour serves as a pilgrimage through the valleys of mortality, the plateaus of reckoning, and the peaks of enduring grace. Rather than venturing into new territories, this album deepens the themes and sounds that Picott has meticulously honed over the years. For those with an ear finely tuned to the subtleties of vocal delivery, consider this album a sumptuous feast.