Mel Parsons: Sabotage (digital outlets)

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Hoping for Rain
Mel Parsons: Sabotage (digital outlets)

With the title track of her previous album Slow Burn, Mel Parsons offered a useful shorthand to her style and career. With Sabotage she's been slow-burning over six albums, numerous songwriting nominations and wins in folk and country categories, and the respect of her peers.

For someone who has built a more than respectable catalogue of songs however, Parsons still hasn't quite connected with that huge mainstream audience out there which would happily adopt her.

When she opened for Chris Isaak in Auckland earlier this year she struggled to gain the attention of a rude crowd on their phones and chatting when she came on, not even offered the respect of a lowering of the house lights.

But against the odds she won over that crowd with her humour and personality, a bracket of strong songs delivered just on acoustic guitar and by the end she left to enormous applause.

Her albums can be like that too: they are quiet and don't assert themselves but slowly over time and repeat plays the songs become distinct and rewarding.

They are slow burns.

Sabotage sounds like a collection born of sadness: the opener is the moody Circling the City about aimless driving at night after burning a bridge and offers “I’m always so tired I am done. Please remember me, I used to be fun”. There is an aching weariness in her delivery.

What follows in Offer Down could be a message-to-self after knock-backs: “You’ve been working hard, keep getting knocked back Those bruises will callous, paying off down the track. Been getting turned down, doors closing up in your face . . . It’s coming round to your time in the sun”.

Later there is 5432 with “what if I can never write another song? What if all the things I knew were wrong? What if you don’t love me like I love you?”

The equally weary, downbeat but hypnotic title track touches on similar territory: “I went over and over the words that you said, I know I did you wrong . . . sabotage, a love so real”.

This could be a relentless parade of miseries for public consumption but, as she has always done, Parson – and co-writer/producer Josh Logan – couch such emotionally naked lyrics in gently hypnotic songs and clever arrangements (the mesmerising Hoping for Rain where you swear you can hear the crackle of the open fire).

The closer Expectations is a lovely work about lowered expectations and the peace in going nowhere, and appropriately it slides to melancholy ending.

Expectations
 

Aside from Hardest Thing (which recently won her the 2024 MLT Songwriting Award), Sabotage barely moves the needle from its moody reverie but the raw honesty of her lyrics (Little Sadness “walking with me”) and weary delivery make for an emotionally engaging coherent body of work.

JB logo_1And another slow burn.

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You can hear and buy this album digitally at bandcamp here. It is available on CD and vinyl in New Zealand record stores now.

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mel_poster

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