Sitting here at Somers on the south east coast of Victoria, fondly described as St Kilda by the sea for its smattering of recluse expatriate St Kilda artists, listening to Tash Parker’s debut album in the full knowledge that she will be performing at the local Coolart wetlands tomorrow evening. The wetlands are indeed the perfect setting for her particular strand of folk music, a successful recreated idea of a wetlands created by a group of local environmental activists. For the themes of folk, often include this sense of being awake, this active engagement with the natural world alongside a romanticised view of nature. Her tools are that of a folk singer as well, guitar and voice, a poetic pen and a semi-trained voice.
The arrangement J Walker who besides being a multi-instrumentalist and playing strings, guitars, piano, bass and zither has created the arrangements on the album. It is this arrangement that lifts the work out of the folk arena towards a complex sound that draws influences from the arenas of classical, Bossa Nova, Americana and whimsical pop. It opens lively with ‘move around’, whose pace bespeaks the content, staccato rhythms giving way to a free flowing melodic chorus and back again. The Bossa Nova infused ‘not unprepared’ tells the story of a woman moving into a relationship, in a warm jangly mid paced mode. ‘When it rains’ sets the patter of rain to music, a melancholic line broken by a guitar crescendo. ‘I take the blame’ is the radio play track of the album, a bitter sweet tale of life choices and interpersonal relations with more than a hint of determinism. ‘Beautiful town’ weaves steel guitar, piano and subdued vocal to convey the irony of the title in relation to its description. ‘Baby all the time’ is a roots/Jazz/Americana influenced number of a simple love song that could have sprung as easily from early Joni Mitchell. ‘Somers’ slow plucked pace and wavering vocal with the hint of intrigue heightened by application of violin. ‘Beaus song’ finishes the album with its delicate paean to the delicate sensibilities of a woman finding her way in the world.
The idea of folk as telling stories, social history set to music, is the shtick of Tess Parker. Combined with the patterning of music to the emotional content of the lyrics it seeks a sensory emotive response in the listener. While a number of the songs speak of individual experience, the ability to connect with universal stories is what makes the tracks accessible and able to be widely appreciated. No doubt as she moves further down the track the ability to instil essential humanism within her poetic form will increase as with her general appeal. I am unsure that the subtlety of the arrangements can be conveyed as well live as they are on the album but the efforts of J.Walker and Wally de Backer who eschew experimentation for craftsmanship is likely to carry the day. It’s a long way from Kunnunarra, Western Australia, for this artist and she has been moving across the country with a rapidity of someone on the rise with an excellent agent/publicist. I could be wrong but she seems quite likely to move in the folk rock circles towards ARIA fulfilment a well-trodden path of this dominant musical form.