This is an album we’ll be savouring after the review is done; it’s a quality album and very interesting (interesting always being the best thing about music).
Melancon plays swampy, dirty American blues (at least on this, we’ve not heard of him before but this is his fourth release). Imagine Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds got the gig as Tom Waits’ backing band.
Track two is a cover of Waits’ Goin’ Out West (“Well I know karate / Voodoo too”). Bruce Springsteen’s 57 Channels (“There’s fifty-seven channnels and nothin’ on” is also covered). From the opening bar you know the word “voodoo” will come into things and it does, even if on a cover.
The title track opens and the first lyrics are “Up until I was about ten years old, my family owned a crawfish pond outside of Gaydon, Louisiana…” a statement of intent if ever there was: you’re getting stories set in the swamp, literally or metaphorically.
All the characters in the songs are flawed — a troubled old man in the opening song “walking back and forth in a daze” has been to Viet….Nam (said like that, spanned out over two words): “His boots were on American soil / But his mind is far off in burning villages.”
The narrator in the more conventional bluesy rocker (and standout song) Westgate has a football career but blows it to hang out with a fast-living girl, Lisa. “I ain’t gonna touch a football again” he says. Later, as a soldier in the belly of a tank in Afghanistan, thoughts of Lisa keeping him going.
The addictively repetitive bluesy rhythm guitar in Rehabilitation underpins a tale of a recovering addict, sitting in a circle at 6am while Billy “sweats it out”, “shaking like a leaf, foaming at the mouth”. Some nice distorted swampy blues guitar on this.
In Lord Knows, a law-abiding God-fearing man awaits the noose after shooting the man who killed his brother, while in Cobra a man drawn into bank robbery after admiring a tattoo (“What this tattoo stands for is none of your goddam business, but have you ever considered robbing banks?”) sees his accomplice shot dead: “Much like the cobra on his forearm, death is a permanent thing” are the last words on the album.
While there is some talking and some out-there moments on this, a lot of it is slick and complex bluesy rock, with outstanding playing. There could be tributes to other bands too, like The Doors-ish keyboard solo in Cobra. The album is broken up by two slower tracks, Corpus Christi Carwash and the gently blistering The Heartbeakers, a tribute to Tom.
Fresh and original, this is (again) worth a punch in the face for any addle-pated fools who say “there’s no good music out there any more.”
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