Chances are you won’t have heard of Melody Pool. The 21-year-old from Kurri Kurri in NSW has spent the past few years working primarily as a supporting musician on her local circuit. Pool used crowd-funding to get her to Nashville and to record and produce the album alongside U.S singer Jace Everett and producer Brad Jones (Missy Higgins/Josh Rouse/Justin Townes Earle) with a handful of local musos in tow.
And the gentle production is a key component. Even with strings and full band, these are never allowed to mask the essential ingredients, which are Pool’s surprisingly mature and at times gut-wrenching words and the irresistible emotional reach given to them by the seemingly effortless assuredness and clarity in her voice.
Notably, this isn’t a country album, although there are traces of the alternative brand, particularly Ryan Adams and Patty Griffin, in a few of the songs, such as the acoustic ballad ‘Somebody You’ve Never Met Before’ and the first single ‘Xavier’, which builds from that acoustic base into an anthemic band wig-out.
The most obvious influences on her work come from a more folkie tradition, where Joni Mitchell and Laura Marling meet. Just occasionally, such as on the sprightly pop song All of the Love, Mitchell’s presence is a tad too obvious, but it diminishes little the quality of the song. Indeed, there is finesse in every one of the 12 tracks here, and variety as well.
The opening title song is a statement of intent, in terms of the album’s predominantly melancholy lyrical tone: “I got my gloves from auction, you got your gloves brand new/I’ve had a few years now of being lost and blue”. As counterpoint the song is the most sprightly of the bunch, one of several where the band is used to full effect.
There’s more melancholy on the album than one would expect from an artist so young. The lyrics – tales of love lost, of domestic abuse, of infidelity and more – are so well-crafted, so poetic and so insightful that it’s hard, initially at least, to relate them to someone presenting their first full collection of songs.
‘Xavier’ is one of a handful that are emotionally charged. The centrepiece, ‘Henry’, a stark “f . . k you” to a philandering boyfriend, is the standout among many great moments. “Trust me, I wouldn’t take you back in a heartbeat,” she sings, before the chorus takes the song to a deeper emotional level, combining sadness, bitterness and assertiveness in just a few poetically poignant lines: “There’s no beauty in a woman who won’t respect herself/ but they’re your choices babe and the choice to live without you is mine”.
‘Royal Queen (Mary)’ is the darkest song, a heart-tugging reach-out to a victim of a violent partner, given a suitably morose tone by the underpinning strings. The closing country stroll ‘Pretty Little End’ boasts a lighter touch but is no less emotional in its subject matter of dreams unfulfilled.
“The Hurting Scene is a rich tapestry, an album full of promise from a relatively unknown performer. Look out for her.” Iain Shedden – The Australian
“Melody Pool follows in the footsteps of other talented young Australian singer/songwriters such as Missy Higgins and Lisa Mitchell, who have both made a name for themselves creating music with a sense of permanence. They do not subscribe to fads, instead preferring to stay true to the integrity of their music and songs” – The Ripe
MELODY POOL – ‘THE HURTING SCENE Album out July 5 throughwww.liberation.com.au