“I’m not sure what I’d label my music as. People ask what kind of music do you play and I say I don’t really know. I love folk music and storytelling I guess it’s just rock and roll.” –Rod Melancon
If last year’s EP, LA 14, gave us a taste of Rod Melancon’s own darkly lit pilgrim’s path as an artist and a writer, then his new full album release appropriately finds him taking root with the title, Southern Gothic, as he takes us further into the light and darkness of his own poetic vision based on tales of the people of his South Louisiana homeland. The album is further evidence that confirms the arrival of an important new artist on the horizon of the Americana music movement that has been sweeping the country charts.
Southern Gothic is a journey into the dark-and often twisted-night of the soul. It is the restless yearning of a young, new South that has been represented by The Drive By Truckers, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. With this fine new album, Melancon finds himself in their company and ready to take his well-deserved seat in the congregation as one of the finest Americana artists out today.
Just as Johnny Cash captured the Arkansas of his childhood and Springsteen brought Asbury Park alive for millions, Rod Melancon has brought the sound and feeling of South Louisiana’s storied towns filled with conflicted characters. The sound is driven with a raucous blues that would make Lead Belly feel at home. Rod grew up in the shadow of Angola State Prison where the great bluesman made his home for many years.
On this cycle of songs, that sometimes plays like stories of his favorite author, Larry Brown, Melancon takes us deep in the swamp lands of South Louisiana, found in the bayous and small towns along the parish lines and the borders that dwell with the native sons of this often, unseen heartland where the stories wait to be told. There are ghosts to conjure up in the night fires and bayou jamborees. It takes a special artist to conjure up the soul of the land through song and story. It takes an artist possessed of a singular vision: Welcome to the world of Southern Gothic. It is a world that is uniquely Rod Melancon.
If the finest artists write what they know, then with Southern Gothic Melancon has not only written what he is intimately familiar with, he also gives us a portrait of his love for the land of his childhood and the souls he has encountered during his lifetime. There are songs here that reflect the restlessness of the heartland (“Promises”) alongside the In-Cold-Blood feel of the yearnings of a serial killer (“With the Devil”). Then, he and producer Brian Whelan, change things up as they allow the listener to come up for air on grungy raunch & roll rockers like “Redhead” and an update of Buddy Holly by way of Bob Dylan on “Mary Lou.”
He and Whelan brilliantly segue the solid roots of rock ‘n’ roll and R&B into serious industrial metal-fused psychedelic music on songs like “Lights of Carencro” and the rage-filled anti-war anthem, “Different Man,” re-created here, from the Parish Lines album, to new heights.
Southern Gothic represents the diverse experiences of an old soul inside the music of a young new talent. On this album, Rod Melancon takes an unflinching look inside the heart of Americana darkness as he stylistically drives deeper into the roots of his own imagination nurtured in the badlands and bayous of his home.