Roderick Melancon is a Southern boy through and through. His roots lie in the swamplands of southern Louisiana where LA. Highway 14 runs through and so tis’ the title of his new E.P… LA14. Set to be released on April 22nd. Once again the brilliant Brian Whelan is at the helm producing and playing guitar.
In a land of cotton fields where poke sallet (a bit like spinach) grows wild and alligators lurk in the moss covered swamps, Melancon’s music vividly reflects his earthy rural background and family traditions. As a child he’d listened to blues, country and to Cajun music; that rare hybrid of traditional musical styles introduced by French settlers at the turn of the 19th century.
In “LA14” you will find all the pathos, truth and warmth of life in America’s deep south. Melancon sings with a stylish understated “Southern drawl” given syncopation by a confident swagger and with a bottle of whisky in his back pocket. It’s sort of a earthy soul music “thing” made famous by fellow Louisianan Cajun, Tony Joe White … Hipsters called it “Swamp Rock” and that is what Melancon’s music is all about.
Tony Joe White and Johnny Cash
Tony Joe White wrote countless hits and interestingly he’s still has a huge following in France. His biggest hit in America was the tale of “Polk Salad Annie”. It was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and in 1969 it reached #8 on the Billboard charts. Its lyrics describe the lifestyle of a poor rural Louisiana girl and her family who were so poor that they would have to eat polk greens just to survive.
Rod Melancon Tony Joe White……Brian Whelan
Melancon’s lyrics for LA14 are more reflective than redemptive; and at times unfortunately tragic. The music thrusts with a brassy attitude unique to his Louisiana homegrown vocals. It’s funny that Rod’s songs can resonate so loudly even when it’s so specific to a special area of America!
Cousin Perry .. Ain’t Nobody Mess With Perry….
The first song is about his second cousin “Perry”. Its superlatively sets an eclectic mood of telling the ode to Perry; a self anointed badd-ass mother fucker. He lived by the ragged rules of the Cajun community, where when you entered a “speakeasy” on a Saturday night you would take your home-made knife and thrust it into the wall so you could hang your hat on it. In other words, you were “marking “ your territory and nobody better mess with you.. or else. Kinda’ like a mean hound dog pissin’ on fire hydrant. Perry was constantly getting in trouble by fighting, robbing and peddling drugs. One drunken’ night he got seriously sliced by a knife in a bar fight but Perry still victorious . He took being the black sheep of the family; a bad apple! Its as if he got the name of the “Devil’s Little Brother “Ain’t nobody mess with Perry”. Local police had his game and it wasn’t before long that he was incarcerated and sent to Angola Correctional facility… Known as the toughest prison fiefdom in the country. It got its name name from the African nation, Angola back during slavery. There is even a prison radio station that allows the inmates to D.J. and play everything from rap , country and gospel. Its call letters are KLSP ( K-Louisiana State Penitentiary).. “The Incarceration Station”. The Melancon family had a history of family members that served time at Angola for various crimes.
Melancon’s lyrics to Perry:
“Raised on the south side of Lafayette
If there’s a tougher man born I aint met him yet
Aint nobody mess with Perry
Come out alive
Lying on the road watching the lights grow dim
Poor Perry never was afraid of dying
And he had my back since I was young
His fist bawled up just like a loaded gun
Aint nobody mess with Perry
Come out alive”
Perry soon became very ill due to the hard life of brawlin’,whisky and dirty needles. Knowing that the end was in sight Rod’s “grandpaw” convinced the Louisiana Prison Board to have Perry transferred to Crowley prison so he’d be closer to his family. But it was all too late. As he was fading into death Perry claimed he could see his grand pa’s spirit in the hospital room. Grandma Melancon whispered to Perry and wished him off to heaven peacefully and to follow the light. .. At Perry’s grave site it was inscribed on his tombstone… “Still Doing Time”….
Rod’s previous album, “Parish Lines” was encompassed with tales of the parish life. “Mad Talkin Man” was the song that pivoted much of the spirit that led to LA14.
Its not too often when an artist reveals their personal demons that haunt them . LA14 is not full of frolic. The track, “The Lights of Carencro” is the story of his Uncle Rod who he was named after. Uncle Rod was killed in a horrific motorcycle accident in the town of Carencro (French for buzzard) just outside of Lafayette. The song is embedded with “psychadelia” pretense that may seem more apt on a Grateful Dead vaults recording or being “punked” by some backward masking. It recounts the tragedy while you again get a glimpse of Cajun justice and retribution. Melancon tells the story so vividly that it ruminates with horror and when he mentions Bad Company’s classic, “Feel Like Making Love” you yearn to go back and listen to both songs “back to back”…..
“Motorcycle Boy” Rod Grandpa Melancon
Rod Melancon is doing a residence appearance every Monday in the month o fMay at the world famous Silverlake Lounge in beautiful Silverlake. You will be riveted by the tales of Perry and Uncle Rod.
Special thanks to Rod Melancon for providing all the great media pics.. without them the stories of Perry and Uncle Rod wouldn’t be spiritualized and of course a special thanks to the unbelievable Melissa Dragich-Cordello.