If, in fact, the title tells all, then suffice it to say "Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil" simply offers another astute example of Texas bred singer/songwriter Rod Picott's ability to convey telling analogies for today's challenging times. Indeed, it may be the most personal - and profound - album of Picott's prolific career. Amplified only with the minimal arrangements consisting of voice, harmonica and guitar, the songs reach deep inside a frayed psyche and share the troubles and toils of characters that dwell of the edge of a darker divide. Their lives are fraught with division and difficulty, giving little choice but to try and reconcile struggle with survival.
Picott himself seems unusually adept at conveying their plight. Sympathy and pathos inform his stark delivery, making these somber soliloquies all the more affecting and in some cases, seemingly surreal as well. "Mark," the true-life tale of a friend who committed suicide while in high school, is especially striking. Likewise, the haunting and harrowing "Bailing" recounts the hard luck story of how Picott and his family had to deal with disaster, practically paralleling a chapter out of a William Faulkner novel. The dark and desperate "Too Much Rain" echoes a similar sentiment in more dire terms. "There's no telling how a man can be so cruel/Inside was a hole where his heart never grew."
The fact that Picott drew many of these songs from his own memories makes these songs all the more vivid and dramatic, rather like verses from a Carl Sandburg poem or Woody Guthrie's detailing of Oklahoma's Dust Bowl era. There's little sense of salvation in these stark melodies, but a touching tenderness lingers regardless. It's an affecting series of songs, revelatory in some ways, reverent in all others. Picott's notes on the origin of each offering reinforces that notion. So while his uncompromising honesty comes with consequences, the sobering "Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil" makes the aforementioned effort all the more worthwhile.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tenn. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His book -- Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.