Melody Moko’s debut album, The Wreckage, was a long time in the making, but it worth the wait, judging by her launch show on Sunday.
The three opening acts paved the way for a night of country music – 12-year-old Piper Butcher showing amazing poise; the newly formed Dearly Departed duo flashing depth of song and rhythm; and hot national country star Fanny Lumsden humbly laying down a few tracks from her brand new album Real Class Act, not to mention a fascinating cover of KC and the Sunshine Band’s huge disco hit Give Up It featuring Michael Muchow on a mean mandolin.
All of which set the stage for Moko’s main session, a 13-track whirlwind concert featuring all 12 songs from The Wreckage and a frighteningly intense encore of Townes Van Zandt’s White Freightliner to finish the night.
At first glance, the album covers too much territory, proclaiming itself as Americana, but sashaying into blues, rock’n’roll and pure country. But hey, it certainly makes a statement for Moko, stepping up as a lead singer with a bag of good original tunes that individually hold their own.
Forgetting her joyful presentation and sly smile that just won’t go away – maybe close your eyes – her songs are branded with imagery and stories of hard-luck times. Bury Me Sane, sung with backing vocals by guest Catherine Britt (co-producer of Moko’s album), stood out like a country classic from the lips of Emmylou Harris.
And not for one second can the musical presence of husband, the aforementioned Michael Muchow, be taken for granted. A guitar master of renown (and co-producer of Moko’s album), he kicked a mighty boot into her blues number, Truth About, her rocker – Take Me and the anthemic encore – and had a hand everything else.
The album includes one cover, Paul Kelly’s Don’t Explain, which fits easily with the other high energy piece, Take Me.
The title track is somewhere in that pop/country crossover range, and it feels like a river Moko is yet to cross. Or maybe not. There weren’t any cowboy hats in the room and there didn’t need to be.
Moko has plenty of talent. Her future success may depend on a commitment to one direction. For now, there’s no easy way to stick a label on her style.