Mel Parsons has built a strong reputation since the release of her debut album in 2009, and here she is back with her fifth which debuted at #3 in the Official Top 40 album charts and #2 in the Top 20 NZ album charts when it was released in September last year. For such a small country, New Zealand has a rich history in producing folk and alt-folk artists, and Parsons continues that strong tradition which at times blend both rock and country and western, even some jazz, always with her understated and emotional vocals at the heart of everything. There is a depth and passion within her music which is hard to explain, a plumbing of depths which is so very different indeed to the music which normally captures the radio scheduler’s imagination.
Here is a performer who is prepared to be edgy, with sometimes strident rock guitars that may upset the more dedicated acoustic listener, or she lets the music drop into something which is far more emotional and restrained, but always with power and passion at its core. She built her reputation as one of the hardest workers on the live circuit, something she continues with to this day both solo and with the collective Fly My Pretties. Her songs are full of lyrics designed to make the listener pay attention and think about what they are hearing, all the time delivered in a fashion which allows us to see deep inside her soul as she bares all for us to see. This is deep but also incredibly enjoyable, full of hooks and nuances which brings us in and invites us to stay a while. Apparently none of the musicians involved in the sessions had heard the music before arriving at the studio, so there is a feeling of being on the edge as everyone brings their own touch to Mel’s compositions.
There is an underlying darkness to much of this, a sadness and melancholy, with the cover photograph being a visual representation of what is inside, hands together as if they are ready to be handcuffed, a look of concern on Mel’s face. This is an album which can be enjoyed on the surface level the first time of hearing, but the more it is played the more there is to discover.