Country music is, more than most other genres, the music of evocation. Songwriters conjure emotions of relationships and situations, sometimes long past; they describe worlds and places. It’s then up to the singer to call on their own experiences to bring out nuances that even the songwriter may not have been aware of, even if they are that songwriter. Sometimes the singer sounds like they’re calling the faithful to worship, and anyone who has fallen under music’s spell knows that transcendent feeling of listening to a song that feels spiritual in nature because those elements of writing and performance create something that connects so deeply to you.
It is no surprise that Queensland-born singer-songwriter Dan Parsons has created an album’s worth of such songs on his new album, Sunday Morning Cinema: it’s his fourth long player and it sounds like the work of someone who has developed a great interest in connecting with his listeners – and that requires honing your songs so that their meaning is always clear, and performing in a way that brings them fully to life.
Parsons has a great baritone voice that recalls James Taylor at his best, and the style of the songs does suggest that era of American songwriting (no bad thing) as well as some laidback West Coast country rock. The songs are so well written that nothing should get in their way, and accordingly the production on Sunday Morning Cinema is sparse without being spare. Steel guitar is given a prominent role (as it should be) but never competes with Parson’s voice, which brings us the many colours and shades in these songs.
Parsons is clearly a storyteller and he has created an album that delivers nine stories, all with their beginnings, middles and ends. This is an album for those who like their music intelligent and thoughtfully made; you can listen to this album over and over and it will always bring you something new each time. You can also simply close your eyes and let Parsons’s baritone call you closer, getting nearer to the centre of his story with each note.
Sunday Morning Cinema is out now.
The album launch show will be at Northcote Social Club in Melbourne on 2 September. Tickets here.