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Al Park - Album Review: Pony

26 May 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

Last year it was a Rooster. This year it’s a Pony. Christchurch never ceases to amaze with its depth of talent and animal imagery. This time it’s Al Park, who is older than me, and today releases an album of his own songs written over many years. It’s actually his third album. And there’s a tribute album out since 2018. A tribute album? Is he dead? Who exactly is Al Park?

Ask the opening song, Friend of Mine. And of mine. And there are thousands of me. And I didn’t even know. I was just an occasional visitor to Echo records back in the day. I’m not even one of me who knows Al as an early punk rocker and an even earlier long-haired soccer player when only George Best could do that. Or a bar owner. Or just the old man mentoring the young ones, created by and emerging from the Lyttelton scene. Al Park is a Christchurch icon from Wellington and has never been anything else.

Except now. Now he’s an Americana rock star. And the opening track, Friend of Mine is a delightfully warm and gentle rocker with delicate chord shifts and forward an aft progressions and twinkling banjo and fuzzy guitar which breaks free.

You might have guessed that Adam and Elmore from Hattaway and the Haunters would be there behind him playing and producing along with a host of Christchurch’s finest, and there’s a Shadow on the Water, the signs of the devil’s daughter and haunted harmonica supports the Al Park voice, a little frail, a little reedy, a little worn, more Young and Costello than Van Zandt, but when there are references like these then perfection is indeed the enemy of good enough. Seasoned. Travelled. It’s the song after all, it’s the song.

Ride My Pony jumps us into Chicago 60’s blues jive and indeed Elvis and Townes become Mick. Unashamedly. Three tracks in and we have all this??

We know Honor Lee. Al wrote it but Adam Hattaway borrowed it for Rooster in order to try out his yodel. Al, thankfully, doesn’t.

And now it’s back to 1979, the longest gestation of a song from writing to recording to releasing ever, as Al revisits his early experiences on the West Coast. California is a starkly simple but forceful paean to West Coast rock, all fuzzy and jingle-jangly and just a touch of punk attitude. I’m trying to tell you something…but it’s actually nothing. Eagles meets X. Seminal. Go f..k yourself….

As soon as this is over, the rocker in him settling down, along comes pure, croony country, poor Al Running Away From A Broken Heart. Check out the video. Stranger to me Now Is a rockabilly, hootenanny song with acoustic flourish but once again the difference here is the voice, with a Neil Young attitude and a pinch of punk. “Sad but true” probably inspired Delaney and Marlon’s early releases.

Just One of Those Things. Here comes Banjo George again with a fiddle in support along with a big twangy country guitar. If this isn’t Americana, then it can only be Kiwicana. Back to the blues with Thing for You, R & B, early Stones style with an Ian Stewart piano roll.

And as the album comes to track 10, a warm Farewell (co-written with Delaney) to an impressive retro journey through the influences of Al Park’s life. And all his friends of mine.

Pony by Al Park. This is a hoot of a record. Play it loud, play it drunk, play it again and often and go to the album launch at Loons in Lyttelton on album release day. Which is today. 

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Al Park

In Christchurch, if you’ve been around music, as a fan, as a player, or as a business then you know Al Park.

If you spend 10 minutes in public with him, you’ll have ten different hellos coming his way, from head nods to hour-long debates, everyone knows him to say hi to.
Those close to him know his influence as well.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Al Park


Year: 2022
Type: Album

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