Great North “Golden Age” (Independent, 2017)

With access to music being so easy these days and with so much competing for attention, it is easy to completely overlook so many things that are worth listening to. This husband and wife duo from New Zealand (currently located in London) has a fine pedigree (winners of NZ folk album of the year), and yet most of us will be completely ignorant of them and their work. And on the evidence of this record, that’s a great shame.

The songs are full of stunning imagery, and the performances are quietly wonderful. Until The Road Runs Out begins with Rachel Donnell setting the scene before Hayden Donnell’s vocal takes over and eventually the two voices join together; all the time the music has been ramping up, until the guitar is freed – it channels the spirit of Springsteen into the NZ landscape. There’s a lot of escaping into the landscape: Things We Never Did also hints at the influence of the Boss; they very much have their own voice. Gasoline is another song about cars and radios, guitars and harmonica throbbing like a V8 ready to be released, love and longing. The Golden Age itself is more country rock, with pedal steel clicking along like a freight train, more love and longing.

Good Company relaxes back to just acoustic guitar and vocals, delicate, poignant, melancholy expressed through the lonesome strains of harmonica and when the clouds of brass usher in the rhythm section the songs changes completely, like the sun obscured before a storm – the music is beautiful and yearning. My perception of music from NZ is forever seen through the prism of Flying Nun records but this is more akin to Nadia Reid or Tiny Ruins with a little bit of Anthonie Tonnon thrown in, especially the quieter moments such as Some Kind of Redemption, with its chorus full of harmonies. It’s a record that never falls into easy cliché and always manages to sound inviting. Of course now I have something else competing for my attention and more of my money going to Bandcamp.

7/10

Summary

NZ duo’s third album is a charm

Author: David Cowling

Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.

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