Rod Picott

" I stand in support of the united efforts to protect the water source and sacred land of our Native American brothers and sisters."
~ Rod Picott

It's been 15 years since Rod Picott laid down his work belt, picked up an acoustic guitar and put a permanent end to his gig as a sheet rock hanger. He'd been writing music in private for years, but it was 2001's Tiger Tom Dixon's Blues — a debut album that bridged the gap between between folk and Americana — that officially introduced him as a singer/songwriter, kick starting one of the more acclaimed careers in modern-day roots music. Since then, he's focused on a different kind of construction: building a catalog of songs that spin stories of hard work, heartache and the human condition.

On Fortune, he turns his focus inward, using himself — not the people around him — as the album's main character. It's his seventh solo release, written and recorded after years of heavy touring. Looking to make a record that could serve as a raw, authentic document of his live show, Picott recorded Fortune quickly, cutting six songs during his first day in the studio and finishing the entire album within a week and a half.

"I wanted to make a record where we captured performances, as opposed to imitating performances," says Picott, who grew up in rural New England before relocating to Nashville. "Technology makes it so easy to do an imitation of what your best performance would sound like, but that's not a real performance. That's just what you would want yourself to sound like. I didn't want to do that. For better or worse, Fortune is what I actually sound like."

Musicians like Slaid Cleaves, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Fred Eaglesmith would claim it's for the better. All three have recorded Picott's songs, showing their support for a self-sufficient songwriter who plays most of his shows alone, relying on his voice and acoustic guitar to pack a punch. Fortune gave him a chance to put together a small band, though, with Will Kimbrough (Steve Earle, Guy Clark) handling the electric guitar parts and producer Neilson Hubbard (The Apache Relay, Matthew Ryan) doubling as the group's drummer. With Lex Price joining in on bass, the group kept things as real and raw as possible. They just plugged in and played.

"A lot of these songs explore a sense of chance, of what might happen with your life,” Picott says. “Jeremiah” is the story of a soldier who doesn’t home from Iraq, “Uncle John” is a wry look at family dysfunction, and "Alicia" is a naked telling of a romantic break. The songs come from his life, and the details tell a vivid story. "There's a sense of luck, and how things might unfold for someone. I thought that calling it Fortune would put a positive spin on that idea of chance and circumstance. It helps wrap up the feeling that runs through the record."

Decades ago, during his sheet rock days, Picott promised himself that he wouldn't release an album until he figured out who he was as a writer. Having a good voice wasn't enough; he needed an opinion, a perspective, an ability to turn the world around him into music. With Fortune, he shines a light on himself, strips bare what he found rattling around in his heart and invites the listener to follow a deeper and more intimate journey.

Visit ROD PICOTT on the world wide web.

Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers

"In this world, we all need to stand together, in as many ways as possible, as often as possible. We couldn't stand side by side with our brothers and sisters in North Dakota, yet we can offer this song and much hope and good mojo."
~ Ruby Dee Philippa

Ruby Dee’s is a tale of unbelievable resilience and drive in the face of struggles that would foil someone with less determination. She is a singer, songwriter, bandleader, and cook as well as a traumatic brain injury survivor. Her band, Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers make American music with rockabilly, swing, country and R&B inflections, and their latest album, LITTLE BLACK HEART is a tour de force of exemplary musicianship. Ruby wrote every song on it, with the exception of a Jack Scott chestnut that was a favorite of the band. This is amazing in itself, considering the aftermath of a terrible accident that left her with significant brain damage. Eight years ago, she was involved in a scooter accident that left her with sunglasses implanted in her forehead, a traumatic brain injury and other trauma. In previous years, aside from singing and writing songs for the Snakehandlers, she had owned and operated 3 restaurants in Seattle, quite successfully. Her trauma left her with vertigo, memory loss, nausea, mental confusion and language challenges. “I could picture an image in my mind, but couldn’t think of the word. I couldn’t finish thoughts or sentences or conversations, let alone write songs.”

Insurance difficulties left her with almost no aftercare, but she began doing lots and lots of word puzzles to stretch her brain, then started writing stories, but found she was cheating- if she couldn’t think of a certain word, she would substitute another for it. So eventually she began writing out her recipes, and 8 months later she had a book (Ruby’s Juke Joint Americana Cookbook). On it’s release, she began a 2 year stint writing episodes and recipes for her international Ruby’s Kitchen Radio Show. It was still 2 ½ years before she wrote another song, a dark time for her. Eventually she came to terms with her losses – “I’m as good as I’ll ever be, and I’m grateful for that,” Ruby remembers.

LITTLE BLACK HEART would be a fantastic album regardless, but with tight, catchy lyrics, it’s a testament to Ruby’s return to the level of musicianship she had to struggle to regain. Her smoky, expressive alto and the dynamic band lifts swing, rock n’ roll, R&B and rockabilly songs that cover everything from her accident to social commentary on certain music scenes and their cliques, to love gone wrong. The title track “Little Black Heart” is a classic old-fashioned minor-key murder ballad with steel guitar providing the spooky atmosphere.

The music has gotten a hold on audiences near and far: a combination of Ruby’s singing and songwriting, wrought from her childhood spent between the no-longer-wild foothills of Northern California and the long straight roads around Big Spring, Texas; her time escaping to South America, driving big trucks, working Alaskan fishing boats and more …

“Risky — and perhaps just a bit risqué — Ruby Dee and The Snakehandlers conjure forth all sorts of visions of another time,” said Metro Santa Cruz after a California show. “Rooted firmly in the classic country and rockabilly tradition, the band is an authentic backdrop for lead singer Ruby Dee’s blend of Wanda Jackson sass and Patsy Cline pathos. The band holds it down with the insistence of a chugging train while Dee, a pinup heartbreaker of yesteryear with thoroughly modern attitude, commands the stage.”

Visit RUBY DEE AND THE SNAKEHANDLERS on the world wide web.

Malcolm Holcolmbe

"Water is life; what else needs to be said?"
~ Malcolm Holcolmbe

Malcolm Holcombe grew up in western North Carolina, home to some of the planet's oldest mountains and some of America's deepest musical traditions. Radio and TV fueled Malcolm's musical passions as a kid, and music became even more important after he lost both his parents relatively young.

He toured with bands and landed in Nashville, where he took up an inconspicuous station at the back of the house - the very back - at Douglas Corner, one of the city's best singer/songwriter venues. Stories began to circulate about the mysterious dishwasher with the subterranean voice and oracle-like talent. Sadly so did stories of wildly inconsistent behavior - profound sweetness crossed by bouts of stunning abrasiveness.

He flirted with an official music career. But his stunning debut album made for Geffen Records was abruptly shelved, producing melodrama that only exacerbated Malcolm's drinking and depression. A business that once had a place for complicated genius turned its back on him, and he teetered near the edge.

Moving back to the North Carolina hills proved a powerful tonic. Holcombe let in help where before he'd pushed it away. With deep faith in God and a commitment to his art, Holcombe repaired himself and his career.

And that's a pretty good nod to the effect of hearing Holcombe sing. If you've not seen him in a live setting, this is what you have to do. His presence is spooky and timeless, as one imagines it was like to see Son House or Leadbelly. No emotional stone is left unturned.

While you plan for this important experience, collect Malcolm Holcombe albums... He is cryptic, demanding, polarizing, bold, passionate and free, a combination badly needed in our time of infinite trivia. He's even more interesting for having made a remarkable journey of recovery and discovery.

Craig Havighurst, Nashville

Visit MALCOLM HOLCOLMBE on the world wide web.

Chip Robinson

"This song is not much, but it is all I can offer in the moment. There is too much darkness already in this land and everyday it seems to get a little bit darker. There is only two sides to this situation: Right and Wrong. DAP is wrong on more than one level to bring a pipeline through Sioux land , all that is left from previous broken treaties.

I stand with the right and the righteous. And this situation is far from over. If you are reading this and purchase these songs, Thank you for the support. You just did a good thing."
~ Chip Robinson

Yep. I've been doing this a long time.

Visit CHIP ROBINSON on the world wide web.