20 Jan 2022

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Mel Parsons - Gig Review: Mel Parsons @ The Tuning Fork, Auckland - 16/12/2021

17 Dec 2021 // A review by Roger Bowie

You could hear a pin drop at the Tuning Fork tonight. Not the usual hum and bustle and sometimes annoying back of hall chatter. Partly because we were all socially distanced, to a degree, partly because we had forgotten how to converse, and partly because we’d also forgotten the art and the noise of two hands clapping, so we just used one, and you know what that sounds like.

But mostly because we were just overawed by the prospect of live music, and our earnest desire to respect the artist was almost disconcerting. Until she gave us permission to use both hands.

Mel Parsons announced this gig six months ago, and postponed and postponed and finally got in early so we could see her live before Christmas. And I have been eagerly waiting and anticipating because I saw her back in July singing A Song with No Name and Daniel, and before that maybe Neil Young or Dire Straits, I can’t remember, but what I do remember was being impressed with Mel the rock chick, which made me more determined to right a wrong and fill a gap. (Explainer, these were two of the Come Together series of classic albums produced by Liberty Stage). Confession. Apart from those two occasions, I’ve missed Mel. Completely. And I know that’s wrong and I have to put it right.

So I painted the fence at home in preparation and treated the neighbours to two albums non stop in perfect 24-bit resolution over my super yacht speakers and all was starting to be well. Especially when I know the songs she shares from her back catalogue.

Mel Parsons, farm girl. Coaster. Cape Foulwind (which is not about methane). Mother of 3 kids not yet 3. Who fucking does that? Must be the farm girl. Working on the Headland, working on the tailing gang, cutting the tails off lambs with a hot gas iron and watching the little buggers bleat and waggle their stumps until the pain subsides. Don’t get the wrong vibe, it’s quick and clean, and the alternative, in my childhood view, was much worse. And of course, who knows why? I do, Mel does, but we are not here to talk about dags. Shit no.

Mel opens the night in a delightfully informal way with what ends up as a second sound check but pretends to be the one. A new song, “everyone’s wading through, running forward with their eyes closed”. Her voice sultry, dulcet, a little falter before it recovers, like, is this real, am I singing live again? Better get serious, I’m just a Slowburn. And yes, these are new songs, so you have to make an effort, dear audience, to encourage me with approval. Sorry Mel, we’ve just forgot, we’ve been locked up.

Songs from Drylands and Glass Heart precede the recently released single, three days after lockdown which could have been about that but turns out a bit darker, it’s hard to Carry On, it’s not about how we did. But it could be. It’s our choice. Her song, but ours to interpret. That’s what I love about the songwriter and the song: once it’s out, it belongs to everybody. Without the royalties, of course, it’s hard enough for the artist, they just have to Carry On. Great song, though, her voice now moving effortlessly through the range of tone and emotion which is Mel.

And, holy shit, a pareto song about 80% of everything being done by 20 % of everything else, but it’s not economics, it’s about parenting, Tiny Days, three at once. Almost.

I’m starting to like the new songs better than the old ones but the old ones fight back. Bottom of the Street and Driving Man close out the first set and we are encouraged to enjoy our break, before Christmas.

Mel Parsons writes great songs with lyrics about life, and heartbreak, and poor decisions, and it being too short, and all of this human stuff gets painted against the background of her youth. The remote, windswept countryside, where the cows sometimes don’t come home. And tonight those songs are given the extra scrutiny of the solo performance. And you know it’s true that sometimes youlong for a band to be there to lift the average song to a more polished zone, but that’s not true tonight. Because the stripped back song in a solo acoustic setting gets a chance to speak for itself, in terms of melody, of voice and of lyric, and there’s arguably no greater test, and that test is passed with flying colours, blowing mystery across the room and settling warmly into our senses and bringing peace to the world like Christmas. “There’s a spark which you cannot deny”

So starts the second set before we brace ourselves for the aforementioned docking saga out on the Headland and then bask in the conundrum of the latest single, when you are Already Gone from a relationship which still ostensibly exists. Lucinda Williams makes a brief appearance in the tone of I Got the Lonely from Glass Heart and then the song Don’t Wait which has inspired others not to. A final new song about Darkness which shows that this farmgirl has sass and grit before she ends out the show with a Greg Johnson cover and the song which reminds us all, especially me, that I knew about Mel Parsons long before I knew her, so Far, Far Away, as a member of Wellington’s music collective, Fly My Pretties.

Mel Parsons writes great songs and sings them beautifully. If there isn’t a kiwi version of it, then it’s pure Americana. She’s a country girl, she’s a folk girl, she’s a rock n roll girl, she’s a farm girl, a southern girl, a wind in the hair girl. I bet she drinks Speights.

Can’t wait for the new album

Set List

1. New Song 1
New Song 2 (Slowburn?)
Non Communicado
4. Breaking
Carry On
6. Tiny Days
Bottom of the Street
Driving Man
Come Over Lover
Already Gone
12. I Got the Lonely
Don’t Wait
Isabel (Greg Johnson)
Far, Far Away

Photo Credit: Chris Zwaagdyk / Zed Pics


About Mel Parsons

Well recognised as one of New Zealand’s established songwriting stars, indie-folk singer songwriter Mel Parsons’ star is on the rise. Following the success of both her debut album Over My Shoulder in 2009, and sophomore offering Red Grey Blue in 2011, Parsons released her third full length record Drylands in 2015.

The Kiwi singer/songwriter and two time NZ Music Award (VNZMA) finalist for Folk Album of the Year, has released the first single from Drylands – the gutsy & rhythmic audience favourite originally performed with Fly My Pretties, Far Away. With a dynamite live show, solo or with her band, Parsons is an engaging performer with a natural emotive voice that allows the listener to become part of the story.

With home as a hotel room and a suitcase, Parsons has built up her fan base the old fashioned way – winning over audiences on the live circuit. The only New Zealand artist invited to showcase at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, USA in 2014 & 2015, Parsons has also had recent tours in Australia, UK, Ireland, and Germany. She is also a cast member of Kiwi musical collective Fly My Pretties, with tours and festival performances including the prestigious Byron Bay Bluesfest at Easter 2015.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Mel Parsons


Year: 2015
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Red Grey Blue
Year: 2011
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Over My Shoulder
Year: 2009
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape

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