Close Back to Cactus

ROD MELANCON – FRIDAY, 4/5/19 @ 5:30PM

Like the soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t yet exist, Rod Melancon’s Pinkville whips up a world
filled with shellshocked war veterans, gun-wielding rock & rollers, and other down-on-their-luck
characters, mixing cinematic details and electric guitars into its own version of greasy, gothic
Pulling everything together is Melancon himself: a southern songwriter and storyteller rooted in
the oral tradition of Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown. His songs are dark and detailed, and
his voice — which veers between a spoken-word delivery, a croon, and a rough-edged howl —
is every bit as diverse as the material it delivers. Pinkville, his fourth release, makes plenty of
room for that diversity. There are psychedelic soul songs, Rolling Stones-inspired rockers,
tributes to icons like Freddy Fender and Tom Petty, and a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “57
Channels (And Nothin’ On),” all captured in analog sound by co-producers Adrian Quesada and
Will Walden.
More biographical than the three albums before it, Pinkville begins in the swampy backcountry
of Louisiana. It was there, deep inside Vermilion Parrish, that Melancon grew up making trips to
his family’s crayfish pond. During those drives, he’d regularly pass by a dazed, older man
shuffling back and forth in his own front yard, dressed in long johns and combat boots. That
man — an Army vet who’d fought in Vietnam and returned home in a warped state, his mind
permanently haunted by the horrors of the My Lai Massacre — left a mark on Melancon, who
kicks off his new album with a spoken-word title track about the man and his wartime demons.
That leadoff song introduces one of Pinkville’s central themes: the hard truths that either make
or break a person.
Even so, there’s plenty of uplift here. “Heartbreakers” celebrates the influence of Tom Petty — a
songwriter who, like Melancon, grew up in the Deep South before migrating to Los Angeles —
while “Rehabilitation” makes a cool case for getting clean. Melancon rides a snake-charming
groove during the loud, electrified “Cobra” and turns his own mental struggle into a roadhouse
roots-rocker with “Manic Depression.” For an album that’s often steeped in darkness, Pinkville
isn’t afraid to shine its light on brighter moments, too.
Melancon, a former actor who was raised by a theater teacher, cranks up the album’s cinematic
sweep with help from Will Walden, who pulls double-duty as the album’s lead guitarist and coproducer. The son of Emmy-winning composer Snuffy Walden, Will approaches his instrument
like a director, setting the scene with each signature riff. In “Pinkville,” his tremolo guitar rustles
up images of a platoon on patrol, while the Keith Richards-inspired playing of “Westgate” helps
paint an R-rated picture of a horny, stoned adolescence. “Corpus Christi Carwash,” which tells
the true story of Freddy Fender’s former gig at a car wash, sways and swoons like a 1950s pop
ballad, while “Lord Knows” struts and swaggers with help from a 1970s organ.
Recorded in a series of live takes in Adrian Quesada’s Austin-area studio, Pinkville blurs the
lines between roadhouse country-rock, Texas blues, Louisiana soul, and all points between. It’s
haunted-sounding music for the heartland. And it’s Rod Melancon as you’ve never heard him
before: focused, unconventional, and willing to chase the muse into territory where few have
gone before.


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