Mel Parsons – Tuning Fork

DSC_4091Mel Parsons kicked off her 22-date New Zealand tour with a show at Auckland’s Tuning Fork. Parsons has just released her third album, Drylands, and most of the musicians responsible for creating that record were on stage with her.

No, Ron Sexsmith, who added harmony vocals to Mel’s song Don’t Wait, wasn’t around, but co-producer and guitarist Gerry Paul was part of the band as were bassist Aaron Stewart and drummer Craig Terris who provided the rhythm section for most of the album. Also playing guitar with Mel was Dutch folkie Christof, who also served as the opening act for the evening. Also, Anna Coddington sang backing vocals during the first song.

I missed Christof’s set, but photographer Michael Flynn assures me that is was “beautiful”, and that’s good enough for me.

Parson’s set was focussed, not surprisingly, on the songs from Drylands. In fact she performed all but one of the 13 tracks during the 15-song set. She may have gotten to Good Together during the encore, but fatigue got the better of me and I had to bail out before Mel’s curtain call.

What I did see was excellent.

Parsons is in possession of a wonderfully rich voice. There is a smoky quality that makes it almost impossible not to be drawn into her lyrics.

Several of her songs, such as set-opener Far Away and album-closer Another City, are about her life on the road. She manages to convey the weariness and loneliness that must surely be a part of that lifestyle with coming across as whinging or ungrateful. Sure, playing tiny pubs across New Zealand may not be the glamourous life, but it’s no doubt better than most factory work.

That weariness and restlessness can seem a bit overwhelming over the course of an hour-plus set. Mel seemed to sense that as well.

“We’re gonna pick it up now”, she announced before playing Pleasure And Pain an upbeat shuffle from her first album, Over My Shoulder.

In true troubadour style, Mel had stories to go along with her songs. She shared in details of Get Out Alive, which was inspired by a nasty car-crash she was involved in. Fortunately, Mel was unhurt, but her car was totalled. We also heard how Fireworks was written at the last minute for her sister’s wedding.

Again the warm atmosphere of The Tuning Fork set just the right mood and the audience was perfectly attentive.

I seemed like the ideal way to start her long trip through the country.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn:

Mel Parson set list:

  1. Far Away
  2. Driving Man
  3. Alberta Sun
  4. First Sign Of Trouble
  5. Don’t Wait
  6. Down So Long
  7. Get Out Alive
  8. Non Communicado
  9. Far North Coast
  10. Friend
  11. Pleasure And Pain
  12. Damage
  13. Another City
  14. Fireworks
  15. Down In The Bar