Album review: Rod Melancon – Pinkville

Rod Melancon. Picture: Johan Bergmark.

Rod Melancon. Picture: Johan Bergmark. - Credit: Archant

Pinkville finds Melancon facing his demons and hitting his stride with a series of vivid set pieces.

Album cover for Pinkville, which is out now.

Album cover for Pinkville, which is out now. - Credit: Archant

Rod Melancon is a southern songwriter and storyteller rooted in the oral tradition of Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown. The former actor may have relocated to Austin, Texas, from his native Louisiana but he weaves his experiences and influences together like badges of honour on his gritty, cinematic fourth album.

Slow, languorous bass and shimmering cymbal open the title track, Melancon solemnly recalling his childhood self encountering an old man pacing up and down, dazed, in the front yard of his grey Louisiana house - a Vietnam veteran whose "boots were on American soil, but his mind was far off in the burning villages of Pinkville".

It's a downbeat, atmospheric pointer for the gutsy, first-person nuggets that lie ahead, full of gun-wielding rock'n'rollers and other down-on-their-luck characters that inhabit a greasy, dark Americana of roadhouse country-rock, Texas blues and Louisiana soul.

The potent, poetic lyrics are matched by the music, recorded straight to analogue tape in a series of live takes.

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Will Walden, who doubles as the album's lead guitarist and co-producer, lights up Westgate's cool, spoken-word narrative with some late-'60s Stones guitar licks; Heartbreakers ramps it up with honky-tonk piano and harmonium - a sharp, clean ditty rear-ended by a full-throttle guitar solo, lyrically dedicated to the death and legacy of Tom Petty himself; the prowling, low-slung plod of Cobra throbs with rusty, excoriating blues-guitar solos, psychedelic organ and Melancon's theatrical tale jumping from spoken word to throaty roar.

57 Channels, a Springsteen cover, keeps things feeling edgy with a brilliantly cinematic, ominous bass thumping all the while like a coke-fuelled heartbeat threatening to upgrade the aneurysm of the bored and rich to bursting point - an itchy trigger finger ready to destroy much more than just the crappy telly.

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Even the familiar, slowly finger-picked '50s US pop of Corpus Christi Carwash - a tip of the hat to Freddy Fender - is carried off with panache.

Melancon's great, blood-curdling gargle in Goin' Out West doesn't match the Tom Waits' original for primal threat, but is still ghoulishly great.

Melancon offers grit, great licks and gutsy performances.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

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