Last year one album was so different and twisted that it seared a spot in my brain, getting spun non-stop for an entire year. That album was ‘Southern Gothic’ by Rod Melancon and after roughly the 50th listen it gave me the idea to do album anniversary reviews, a website segment I started this past winter. These One Year Later articles allow me to look back on an album and in some cases get us into the time-frame when the artist might be working on their next album as well.
I like my music like my coffee; strong and dark, with splashes of light and sweet. Between Rod Melancon and Chris Knight, I’m fairly certain my wife worries where I’m going to bury her body someday. I can’t tell you what about this type of music draws me in, but when it’s done right I’m going to buy it and listen to it often enough to concern loved ones.
Rod is built like a brick shit-house and has the rugged handsomeness of a young Elvis, but he sings his brand of music like one of heavens devils; his story lines are twisted and deep, full of description and depth like a good novel. Music is really just short stories set to melody, and Rod is proving he has the chops to match his ample sideburns when it comes to writing fables and putting them to music.
When I’m not calling it dark, I like to refer to Rod’s style as time traveling music; he has an incredible ability to put you exactly where he wants you for the story. The first song I heard, and a perfect example of this phenomenon, was “Redhead”. The style and feel of it took me back to the early 90’s; in the back of a rusty Volkswagen Quantum with my mother cranking Georgia Satellites, Van Halen, and Confederate Railroad from cassette with her big hair blowing everywhere as she bopped around in the front seat singing.
That quick wormhole was enough to make my look into the rest of what Mr. Melancon had to offer, and the time traveling never stopped. “Lights of Carencro” puts you nicely into 1975-76 even if he didn’t mention the year, “Dwayne and Me” is ripe with 60’s influence, and “Different Man” takes you to what could be just about any post-war time frame, but most likely Vietnam-era. The last two really resonate with me, having several relatives who did tours in the jungle.
What catches most people is “Lights of Carencro” and how his brother dies in the song; to me this song is dark on so many levels, that being the least of them. It’s menacing because of the raw suspenseful music, attempts at revenge, and the poetic justice served so sweetly. This one sticks with people, and rightfully so, but it’s only one of many well-crafted glimpses at the nefarious side of humanity.
“With The Devil” starts the album off with a steady beat and enough spook to make you wonder what you’re getting yourself into. In this track Rod reveals his ability to slowly piece together a story through various snippets of verse, supplementing it with just the right production to amplify the tale. “Perry” is slightly less murdery, with lots of wrong side of the tracks imagery; this is probably my favorite on the album, I love the baseline and guitar solo halfway through.
I’d be lying if I told you Rod wasn’t at his best when brooding, but he’s not too shabby at the heartfelt songs either; when ‘Southern Gothic’ isn’t being wicked it’s sweet, whether its reminiscing about lost love in “Mary Lou” or fondly remembering a cousin in “Dwayne and Me”. Even “Redhead”, with its other-head lyrics borders on a love song, though perhaps more aptly labeled a lust song. The album ends with “Outskirts of You”, a slow and steady croon about better times, bottle in hand.
This wasn’t Rod’s first album, and it wasn’t his first foray into the realm of darker music, but until now it has been one song at a time; with ‘Southern Gothic’ it would be easy to write the whole album off as ominous if you didn’t listen hard enough. That surely isn’t the case, there are plenty of glimmers of light; there would have to be, else Rod might have a few people concerned about what’s going on in that dome of his.
Ultimately ‘Southern Gothic’ will be best remembered for Rod’s ability to weave a dark tale, speaking from the side we all hide, and telling the story of those who stepped out of the shadows to become the stuff of nightmares. Quickly working his way toward mastering the art of story-telling, Rod Melancon is absolutely one of the rising stars of Americana.
For the last month or so Rod has been teasing about the new album he’s recently recorded, so be on the lookout for the next chapter; personally I don’t think it came come soon enough, but it takes time to do things right, so I’m being patient.
Check out Rod Melancon on his website (Where you can get a free download of 'Southern Gothic') or Facebook
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