‘By The Time I Get To Wilmot’ is the début album by Jethro Pickett, one that spans time and space both within its tracks and in a literal sense. Hailing originally from Tasmania, Picket recorded the album at home for the most part, both in Melbourne and in Dublin, but both Pickett and his band call the latter city ‘home’. If the cover and artwork suggest a pastoral and rustic tone, reminiscent of The Band around their eponymous second album, the music supports it, and fleeting glimpses of Dylan, John Prine, and Nick Drake float in and out of Pickett’s songs.
It starts well, a folky and personal album leading to the midpoint. Visions Fade sets the mid-tempo pace that typifies proceedings, gospel-like with some nice pedal steel. A heartbeat drum pattern and handclaps drive You Were My Queen gently along, and both here and on album highlight A Tale From The Hills, that irresistible Wurlitzer works its way through the song to fine effect.
She Likes To Dream takes a more experimental approach. An irregular drum pattern variously recedes and thumps gently, the song then solidifying as more conventional rhythms take over, as if emulating the journey of the song’s title character from dream state to reality. Lush harmonies and soaring guitars add flavour, before the band hang back on follower Feels Like Our Path. On this folksy affair they provide unobtrusive and sparing instrumental flourishes over the picked guitar. Similarly, on Dream And Be Safe – short, dramatic and just a bit theatrical – the subtle band embellishments and backing vocals over the guitar elevate it.
The mid-album Revelations (to be proud of) is a bit more up-tempo than the preceding songs, undeniably catchy if a little at odds with the rest of the album. Somewhat cheesy yet memorable with it, it’s an MOR, AOR acronym-fest, and a rare opportunity to hear some backwards flute. Lyrically the album never really breaks out from the standard balladry template of hearts, hands, love and trust, and losing one’s self in trust and love and hand holding and heart pouring and so forth, so it’s something of a surprise when the weighty subject matter of 60 Years Ago arrives at the album’s latter stage. It appears to be a protest song referencing the Korean War, “back when hell rained down”, bridging sixty years from that conflict – and its veterans on all sides – to the present day. It’s also the point where the band stretches impressively out with an extended jam.
Pickett then begins The Loner, an unsurprisingly solitary instrumental with the singer providing sporadic percussive taps on the body of his guitar, drawing the album to a sombre close. ‘By The Time I Get To Wilmot’ is certainly not lacking in warmth, nor fine musicianship, yet for each moment of grandeur there seems to be a plodding counterpoint. Pickett is at his most affecting on the more subdued first half of the album, where the simple, picked guitars are augmented by subtle instrumental strokes and sympathetic harmonies. Just as an overarching mood has been created, it suddenly changes; while this may be a welcome variation in palette to some ears, for this reviewer it jars somewhat. The highs outweigh the lows, though, and Pickett’s début is a worthy, bucolic ensemble piece.