The list of drummers who've made the jump to becoming first-rate frontmen isn't especially long, but Mark Pickerel is doing his bit to fill it out a little more with his second solo album, 2008's Cody's Dream. Pickerel previously kept time for the Screaming Trees and Truly, and has played on the road and in the studio with the likes of Robyn Hitchcock, Neko Case, Brandi Carlile, and some guy named Kurt Cobain, but as it happens he's also a fine singer, with a rich, expressive baritone that can slide up into an impressive upper register, and he's no slouch as a songwriter, either. Cody's Dream often walks the dark, lonely path that former colleague Mark Lanegan followed on his solo efforts, with blues and country accents visible in the mix, but Pickerel can also kick up the tempo and sound jaunty when he's of a mind (cue up "Leaving with the Swamptones" or "Cherokee Grove"), and he and his band don't mind rockin' out when the right song comes along (such as "She Calls" and the title cut). Pickerel clearly isn't afraid of letting a melodic hook make its way into his songs, and he manages to do so without robbing the music of its potent atmospherics. And Pickerel's accompanists serve him well on these sessions, including Ian Moore on guitar and keys, brothers Johnny (guitar) and Jimmy Sangster (bass), and Steve Fisk, who produced the album and plays Mellotron on two cuts. Pickerel's stories of losers and badmen out on the road are often dark, but they're never dreary, and there's plenty of fine and engaging stuff in Cody's Dream that's well worth investigating.
Cody's Dream Review
by Mark Deming