Juliet McLean – Kumeu Live: October 1, 2022

Juliet McLean plays the intimate parlour lounge of Kumeu Live, which perfectly suits her novelist approach to music. Story-telling tangled up in blue melancholia.

Singing with a naked voice and requiring the audience to measure up as well. Naked in the sense of William Burrough’s Naked Lunch, raw and hurting but with a transcending vision. Or the melancholy period of Sinatra when he recorded In the Wee Small Hours and Sings for Only the Lonely.

McLean comes from Taranaki and calls New Plymouth home. Wild west coast beaches, Mt Taranaki and spectacular countryside. It is also a centre for vibrant artists.

Amaze Me is the title track of her current EP. Immediately captivating on record, and also in performance tonight. The voice startlingly reminiscent of Linda Thompson (of course with Richard) in its purity and tone. Judy Collins too, as she eschews most vocal affectations. The horns and percussion on the record make it folk pop. With just keyboards tonight, it is both stark and uplifting.

The EP is more contemplative and downbeat following that.

She opens her set with Overlooked, and follows with We Know and Love Remains. Spectral and meditative like grey autumn skies.

You carry it like our baby’s on my back/ I don’t miss you but love remains.                                       I never made my confession/ Some things are best left alone.

Do not get the impression the music is all downbeat. Somebody’s Sweetheart is melodic folk pop and bittersweet, with a great lyric just be careful who’s fingers in the pie.

Paul Symons

Paul Symons also comes from the Taranaki, and looks like a travelling songster with a blues and roving minstrel back story. Big guy, big beard and an acoustic guitar which comes from New Orleans complete with a baptism in hurricane Katrina.

A Wild Westie Bogan who lives around the corner and rides a Harley. Most of that would be true in a Dylan manner.

He writes and performs americana which encompasses yer blues, country, outlaw and folk. Music for all the folks.

Accompanied by the wonderful Caitlin Smith adding her soulful voice.

The duo can sound a little like Simon and Garfunkel in a harmonic groove sense on folk pop, or country rock songs about regrets, alcohol and soul mates.

First World Problems is a social conscience protest song.

A blues rag about getting Miles Davis on prescription. Some nice jazz scat vocals from Caitlin.

Ninety Mile Beach is an obvious crowd-pleaser. Sounds like americana on the gallop and wide-open spaces. Iconic and wild New Zealand, complete with a woman who…worked in the dairy down by the?? Wharf, probably.

Juliet McLean

McLean resembles Patti Smith on the EP cover and elsewhere, as she was photographed for the Horses album. Big hair Angela Davis style.

Sideshow Diamond is a perfect example of her novelist style of songwriting and especially the similarity to Lou Reed’s approach. It comes from her experience of living in New York City. Coney Island freaks and a trans-sexual guitar player. The place sounds grey and rain-washed like Taxi Driver, and it has a tender melody which is great. Coney Island is part of mythic America through music and literature, and even though I’ve never been there it’s as iconic as Cripple Creek. Close this circle with Reed’s most mysterious partner, the drag queen Rachel, who he cited as his most cherished muse.

Caitlin Smith and Paul Symons join her for a cover of John Prine’s Angel from Montgomery. Smith adds some soulful phrasing in the way that Patsy Cline could do in her country with jazz trademark style.

Unlash the Boats closes the show and it’s a sitting on the dock of the bay song with some Southern soul in there somewhere.

Juliet McLean and her Amaze Me EP release tour is winding its way through the heartland now, and it’s worth your while to discover.

Rev Orange Peel       

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