There is an abundance of new music being released today, and we were spoiled for choice when picking one to focus on today. With albums from The Lowest Of The Low, Justin Rutledge, and Jim Cuddy all scheduled to hit the airwaves, it would be “Out Of The Past,” the brand new full length album from St. John’s, NL, singer-songwriter David Picco, that grabbed my attention; the first since his “Start Again” album back in 2015. Rooted firmly in the classic alt-country and Americana traditions, Picco offers up ten new compositions that are not only incredibly rich in their sound, mood and production, but are well-crafted tales that connect easily with listeners who have a fond appreciation for tales of highways, heroes and underdogs.
Joined by bandmates Sean Murray (guitar), Ryan Kennedy (keyboards), Paddy Byrne (bass) and Chris Donnelly (percussion), David has written and recorded some outstanding new tunes that continue the journey taken on that previous 2015 release. Entrusting the engineering duties once again to the talents of Krisjan Leslie at Lab of Chaos in St. John’s, the songs really do leap out of the speakers and grab your full attention. As for that predetermined alt-country tag, having spun this one a few times over the last few days, the genre is very loosely defined here. With a multitude of influences easily detected on the album, Picco is both willing and comfortable to reach far and wide across the Americana spectrum; combining the styles of Blue Rodeo and 54-40 with splashes of Chris LeDoux, Bob Seger, Stephen Stanley, and Tom Petty, to create his own unique, recognizable sound.
Accompanying the album release is a music video for the lead-off track, “Down The Road And Gone,” which bursts into life upon hitting PLAY, overloading the senses with jangly guitars and Ryan’s discreet keyboards. Picco describes this song as the most straight ahead rocker he’d ever written; one that grows into a great rootsy guitar-driven number where, for me, the sounds of 54-40 intersect with a distinct Tom Petty vibe. “I believe that my songwriting has improved with each album that I’ve done,” he shares. “I was writing mainly downbeat songs and struggling to write anything exciting, [but] I’ve been able to go into a more rock ‘n roll direction and my current band has played a big part in this.”
For those drawn to this album seeking the classic alt-country, Americana sound, tracks such as “See You Around” and “Waitin’ For A Miracle” are certainly great places to start. Jaunting along to a much slower rhythm, “See You Around” adds both traditional organ and the welcome addition of some fine pedal steel. As for the latter, the rolling piano keys and up-tempo accompaniment will satisfy the country music dancers out there, demonstrating a band that clearly loves to jam with this song that consistently draws similarities to Chris LeDoux’s “Cadillac Ranch” for me. Looking for more of that Blue Rodeo style of country music? With a blast of harmonica and catchy chorus, “Can’t Lose You” shares many traits with Jim Cuddy’s compositions, while the frenetic energy of the drums and organ on “Comin’ Around Again” leans more towards their edgier side, as found on Greg Keelor’s “Rose Coloured Glasses.”
Yet for those seeking to discover those other influences embraced here by David Picco, go ahead and skip to “Nowhere To Turn,” a slower, melodic blend of country-pop that kicks off with a (largely redundant nowadays) ‘fade-in,’ conjuring up thoughts of Bob Dylan’s “Changing Of The Guards,” and certainly several live versions of Bob Seger’s hits that popularized this genre. For Picco, his goal was to show more sides of his personality through his music, and with this album, while pain and sadness form the core of many tracks, there is also acceptance and even humor in equal measure.
Naturally there are a pair of tracks here that stand out for me. “Used To Ride” is an older composition, written as a tribute to David’s late father, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. Eerily similar in style and content to the recent atmospheric acoustic recording of “Drive On” from Matt Mays, “Used To Ride” deliberately scales the instrumentation back to allow the slight country flavored vocals to take precedence. I picture a dark stage as I tune into this one, with just two dimly lit spotlights; the first above Picco as he reminisces about his late father’s memory, and the other illuminating the pedal steel that returns once more, providing this temporary state of pain and sadness that the composer is finally ready to share.
Closing with the epic seven-minute “Out Of The Past,” the moodier, somber guitar rings dictate an early tone, reinforced shortly after by those powerful keys once more. And while the instrumentation is not at all muted here, Picco’s vocals still dominate, building this slow burner into an almost anthemic instant classic. Immerse yourself in the pain of friends lost, relayed strongly by the vocals and the incredibly well-timed return of the pedal steel. “Out Of The Past” is the perfect album closer, which for me, conjures up images of a band playing their big stadium finale, and certainly draws comparisons to the likes of The Eagles and Bob Seger during their prime. This album is a highly recommended listen.