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The Graham Album Review #2165

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Minor Gold: Minor Gold

(independent Release, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 8/27/2023)

This seems to be a good time for folk-influenced groups emphasizing vocal harmonies. It’s a kind of welcome retro throwback to some 50 years ago when the 1960s folk movement was evolving into the singer-songwriter scene, and there were still some groups carrying on the tradition of Simon & Garfunkel, Ian & Sylvia, Peter Paul & Mary, Crosby, Still & Nash, Brewer & Shipley and others too numerous to mention. The co-ed duo is making quite a comeback, in terms of number of groups appearing with recordings, though they are very unlikely to make a dent in the electronic and hip-hop dominated commercial music scene. Perhaps the growing numbers of these folky groups, many of them couples and spouses, with strong vocal harmonies, may be a reaction to the current state of pop music. In recent months on this series, we have spotlighted The Bombadils, the Foreign Landers, 100 Mile House, Oliver the Crow, and others. This week, we have another worthwhile addition to the genre. It’s the Austrialian duo Minor Gold. And the new debut release is also called Minor Gold.

Minor Gold consists of Tracy McNeil and Dan Parsons. They were both individual singer-songwriters in their own right before starting the band. Tracy McNeil, a native of Canada had her own band the Good Life. But she and Parsons found common musical ground, and as has been the case with many groups, the pandemic helped to shape how they worked. They were on the road together, living out of a van, when the pandemic hit and they ended up in the Australian state of Queensland, in a semi-tropical area where they rode out the shutdowns, writing a bunch of songs, that become the material for this album. They recorded in Brisbane, receiving help with a grant from the Queensland Arts agency. As self-producers McNeil and Parsons brought in a small group of musicians to supplement their sound, including guitarist Hugh Middleton, who also served as recording engineer, saxophonist Andrew Ball, and keyboard player Ian Peres. Dan Parsons serves multi-instrumental duty, playing guitar, bass, and percussion. The group’s sound is a kind of classic folk-rock hybrid. One can be reminded of Crosby, Still and Nash at times. Though their voices are different in sound, their vocal harmonies blend together exceptionally well.

The material can be melodic and catchy, or more laid back and slower. Most of the songs are about relationships, that oldest of songwriting topics, but the duo manage to cast some new light or at least provide a bit of an original angle.

Opening is a piece that typifies the melodic sound of the album. Mona Lisa features the group’s harmonies along with their somewhat bittersweet lyrics. <<>>

One of my favorite songs on the album is Way with Words about how one’s significant other provides encouragement. <<>>

Don’t Change is reminiscent of some 1960s British invasion pop, with lyrics that are self-explanatory. <<>>

Decidedly more laid-back is Cannonball, a reflection looking back on a life from an older age. <<>>

Another highlight of the album is Wrong Side of Love that combines clever lyrics with an an energetic acoustic musical setting, again evoking early 70s folk-rock. <<>>

A guy who likes to ramble around is the subject of Tumbleweed which again evokes the sound of groups like Crosby, Stills and Nash. <<>>

Dan Parsons is the primary vocalist, though with overdubbing, on the track called Note to Self, another song of introspection. <<>>

The album ends with Lover’s Race, done in a more intimate acoustic setting, with Ms. McNeil the main vocalist. <<>>

Minor Gold the debut album by Australian duo of the same name, is another excellent example of a revival of folk-influenced co-ed duos. Dan Parsons and Tracy McNeil create a very attractive sound with their excellent vocal harmonies, high quality writing and an awareness of the traditions of the folk groups of a half-century ago. It’s also a reminder that good songs in the context of a simple largely acoustic setting, can have real staying power.

Our grade for audio quality is an “A-minus” with good clarity and no needless studio effects, but there is the usual excessive volume compression undermining the dynamics of the music.

It’s hard to imagine a style that’s more of a polar opposite to the commercial pop of today, but a new generation of folk-influenced artists is appearing, bucking the trends, and making worthwhile music that will likely have a much longer shelf life that the fad-driven pop of the day. And from Down Under, Minor Gold have done that in spades of their new album.

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This page last updated August 27, 2023