Practically born on the bayou, as that familiar refrain goes, Louisiana's Rod Melancon attempts to place the best of that state's much revered musical traditions within the context of his hard luck stories and songs embroiled in gritty circumstance. "Parish Lines," his sophomore set, often comes close to finding the right mix, but Melancon's tendency to tap into more familiar terrain - that involving hapless heroes faced with rejection, doomed affairs and lonely hearts, and desperate individuals intent on escaping their surroundings - often finds him caving in to generic precepts.
Fortunately, the feeling of deja vu doesn't detract from an otherwise compelling set of songs. Opening track "Duck Festival Queen" more or less sets the stage in dramatic fashion; a tale of small town lovers who get their simple pleasures from beer, pot, FM radio and gazing at the stars are suddenly thrust into renegade mode when the girl's outraged dad catches them in the act and mistakenly shoots his daughter. She dies, the boyfriend ends up on the lam and he's forced to reconcile the fact that he's now once and forever an outlaw. Yet while a little of that drama goes a long, long way, it doesn't stop Melancon from channelling his inner Springsteen for similar intents, particularly on a song like "Curve Lounge" where the protagonist's starry-eyed dreaming fuels greater ambitions.
In addition to the frequent rumination, "Parish Lines" gives ample space to blues, boogie and bluster, sinking the album in a quagmire of cliche that would have best been left unincluded. Perhaps it's part of Melancon's attempt to paint himself as a backwoods badass, like a younger Steve Earle or an age appropriate Hank III. The ruggedly determined and defiant "Different Man" succeeds on that score, leaving cause to believe that future offerings will make "Parish Lines" seem like a good attempt at initial tracing.