5 Oct 2022
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Mel Parsons - Album Review: Slow Burn

15 Sep 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

Mel Parsons’ 5th album is out today, September 16 and it’s been a Slow Burn, a journey of highs and lows as the world of lockdown and locked out intervened in thousands of creative processes sometimes positively other times depressingly and if nothing else this record is a reflection of these times. The opening track, Lights “when the lights can’t always be on, you can’t expect that I’ll always be strong” captures the malaise which follows a pandemic, and the dark flavour and nuance of the songs on Slow Burn often conflate the sense of generic, world melancholy with deep personal issues. We’re not sure which prevails. Let’s pretend the former. Mel loves life too much to stay down for too long. Despite it being “a hard year of highs and lows” Mel has “never had joy like this before”. Life is just a Slow Burn. But it also rocks.

Above all else, Mel’s sultry smooth delivery is easy on the ear, it’s like an old friend applying balm to the bruise or the hurt, soothing to the skin, to the ear and to the soul. The sound of Mel Parsons is salve to the spirit and this juxtaposes the dark nature of many of the lyrics with the spiritual medicine of the overall sound. Josh Logan’s production and guitar playing against Mel’s understated melancholia lands the soundscape between indie and folk and country rock, or more easily in the broad Americana space if that’s your preference. Like mine. There’s a lot of Lucinda Williams on this album.

Like Carry On and Failure and Tunnel Vision. Agony and self-doubt relieved by the spice of a country guitar twang. Despondency and endless struggle in Going Under but a flashing guitar sounding like Hank Marvin on acid emphasises the underlying determination to Carry On.

For the most part Mel’s melodies sit comfortably within a range, a tight parameter. There are few breakout moments which means that despite the sombre tone we stay and feel safe. Until she takes us on a journey to the Headland. The farmer’s daughter breaks out from the constraints of melancholy to celebrate the history and the hardship of a life against nature, a paean to the boundary between land and sea and the courage of those who have gone before. Almost traditional folk but with a jazzy drum beat and cliff edge piano thunder in the distance.

Or in Tired of Being You, when she rocks in a self-parody of the life of an artist cocooned on the road, a rocker with a country twang, and a sound like Courtney Barnett.

Or in Already Gone, no ambiguity here, about a lingering relationship already left behind, just biding time behind the same power chords we have heard earlier, crashing through in emphatic empathy; like Humpty Dumpty having had a great fall, you can’t put this one together again. Fractured guitar closes it out.

Mel Parsons doesn’t like to explain her songs, nor give any notion of an underlying purpose or thematic intent. Not that there is none; more that once a song is released, it’s not hers anymore, it’s ours, and Mel’s intent becomes subliminal. This is a subliminal album. Despite the Darkness (another great rocker) crawling into your heart there’s always a moment of harmony, perhaps between mother and child, which you Still Got Time to enjoy.

Mel Parsons writes great songs and sings them beautifully. Josh Logan produces and plays guitar and piano, adds a voice and a co-write. Jed Parsons plays drums and sings. Aaron Stewart plays bass. LOHO studios in Christchurch plays host.

Slow Burn will not disappoint, Slow Burn will delight.

Slow Burn will be a soothing companion and a subliminal spiritual experience and occasionally will rock your socks off. Make sure you listen and listen well. Then go to her shows this October and hear it live. From subliminal to sublime.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

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

Releases

Drylands
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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