Artist: Rod Melancon
Album: Southern Gothic
Label: Blue Elan Records
Release Date: 6.16.2017
The natural-born heir to Lou Reed and Townes Van Zandt by way of Lynrd Skynrd, Rod Melancon has a way with disturbing words. This country-tinged album offers no cheery sentiments, no tender love songs, no homey cabin perfumed by mama’s biscuits; instead, Melancon’s words burn like a steering wheel sitting in the August sun.
A personal favorite, “Perry,” with its dark, driving, this-is-your-last-heartbeat rhythm and droned chorus of “Ain’t no-body mess with Perry come out alive” sends a chill to the core, even on repeated listens. Primal power chords and raunchy riffs add to the adrenalin spike this tune delivers. (Actually, Perry gets some sympathy, but there’s a different scary song, “With the Devil,” from a serial killer, that’s truly creepy.)
“Redhead” (reminiscent of Georgia Satellite’s “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”) is as close to love as it gets in Southern Gothic. “She got me sweatin’ in church, she got me speakin’ in tongues” passes for tender sentiment. Only a master wordsmith could paint the object of his desire as precisely as this: “She likes to drink a little whiskey with the boys in the band. She likes to sit on the hood of my white Trans Am.”
Melancon wears his many influences on his sleeve—I would swear he pinched the iconic opening lick from Dylan’s “I Want You” for “Mary Lou,” and for a minute I thought that Bruce Springsteen had popped in on “Promises,” but damn, at least the man has picked worthy role models, and who can blame him? He sings better than Dylan or Reed and not as well as Springsteen, but, in the end, Melancon paints a scene with the best of them, and that’s no small feat. In “Promises” he sings of small-town workaday life: “I pick up Charlie and I load up the truck, But you know, that man, he never shuts up.” Even people who have never been stuck like that will recognize the soul-numbing emptiness portrayed in that brief sketch and later, “The last time I saw her smile—you know, I can’t remember.” Ouch.
He’s young, and it’s only Melancon’s second album, but Southern Gothic’s a lulu. Get in while the getting’s good.