REVIEW: Mel Parsons Displays Quiet, Soulful Power on ‘Glass Heart’

Reviews

Mel Parsons is a singer-songwriter from New Zealand, whose 2015 album Drylands was on the New Zealand charts for 51 weeks. On her new album Glass Heart, Parsons again delivers an album that deserves to be on the charts and win awards.

“Blame” is the first song on the album. One thing is immediately apparent in this song. Namely that Parsons’s breathy vocals are reminiscent of Joni Mitchell. As the song progresses, you notice just how powerful her voice is despite the muted tone. This is in part because of the spare instrumentation of the song. Ted Poor provides a simple beat while the electric guitar remains very much in the background and Mitchell Froom plays an organ part that would fit just as easily in a church service as the preacher delivers his or her message. 

“Deadwood” is another good example of how a muted song can be powerful. The most prominent instrument is the acoustic guitar although Froom plays a keyboard part that adds some emotion. The electric guitar comes to the forefront in the instrumental break and provides a spacy, country sound to the song.

“Just Cause You Don’t Want Me” is a little different than the rest of the songs. The overall vibe is a lot like 10,000 Maniacs – especially with the clean guitar tone and keyboard part. Another thing that is noticeably different about this song is the backing vocals by Josh Logan and Jed Parsons. They sing in the background as Parsons sings the chorus, and their vocals add a dimension that you don’t hear in a lot of the other songs.

“Bottom of the Street” feels a little more rock and roll than the rest of the songs on the album. Not that it will get you pumping your fist, but the rhythm section of Ted Poor and Kaveh Rastegar (bass) comes to the forefront more than in any other song. Also, there is a desperation in Parsons’s voice that lends to the rock feel.

Parsons is an interesting singer. She doesn’t sing in a dramatic or voluminous voice, but that’s where the real power in her vocals shines through. She can carry the song and make you feel something with her stories without ever straining her voice. In that regard, she has a lot in common with folk singers like Judy Collins. She also has something in common with Bruce Springsteen whose Nebraska album was so powerful because the instrumentation was so stripped and showcased the stories of the songs. Parsons knows how to write songs that impact the listener and proves it throughout the 10 songs on the album. Glass Heart will be available everywhere on November 30. Order your copy here

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