Melody Walker is a former Humboldt County musician, so who better to be the subject of the first Topping-Pressure House album review?
While in Humboldt, Melody (who, it’s worth noting, I met as she was part of my friend Harmony’s Rutabaga Queen court in 2006 –yes, Melody and Harmony) played and sang in bands like Womama, AkaBella, and a whole slew of others. In early 2010, Melody met her partner and co-producer Jacob Groopman, when AkaBella opened for Albino!, which Jacob had been playing with, and the two hit it off over stringed instruments in the venue parking lot. Melody moved to the Bay Area later in 2010 and the two started playing out as a duo shortly thereafter.
On March 1st, Melody releases her first solo album, “Gold Rush Goddess.” Most of the instruments were recorded by Melody and Jacob, save for some guest appearances by members of the Bucky Walters, the Real Vocal String Quartet and Albino! Jim Greer produced “Gotta Write Love Songs,” but Melody and Jacob produced the rest of the tracks.
What’s the record sound like? Well, the easiest way I can find to describe it is mostly as a folk album, but with enough pop sensibility that it feels comfortable and familiar (without feeling like it’s directly ripping off anyone else) right away. Melody’s voice makes distinct changes throughout the album, from soft, loving, folk singer to twangy country crooner to straight-forward confidence with more of a rock feel.
Of the 10 tracks, Melody wrote eight of them. Her father Brian penned track 3, called “Stars Align,” and the last track is a cover of a Blondie tune that I fell in love with through old local band The Cutters’ last album, called “Dreaming.”
Really, though, given the mostly folk and country influence on “Gold Rush Goddess,” why the Blondie cover? Melody credits her dad for that:
“I was listening to Gillian Welch’s “Soul Journey” album in the other room, and he heard some changes and harmonies through the wall and asked me ‘Did Gillian cover Dreaming?’, and I asked ‘No.. this is [whatever song it was] What the hell is Dreaming?’… he said, ‘Hmm…. wow.. that would make a really cool cover, you and Jacob should do it’ and then he showed me a video of the Blondie song and I could totally hear it. We tried it out and it sounded great, so we kept it around, and then eventually recorded it.”
What I love about this album: Walker’s originality and variety. Her strong voice and positive lyrics. Songs about place, songs about family, and a love song or two (because you gotta write love songs!). I love the Blondie cover! Love it, love it, love it.
I also love that the liner notes, included with the hard copy of the CD, include both lyrics to all of the Walker-original tunes (including Pa Walker), but also a musical chart for track 2, “Family Band,” which includes a guitar chord fingering chart, so the listener can sing and play along.
What the girls think: They dig it! We listened to it while they did homework and we made and ate dinner, and they asked who it was, and spent a while looking at the cover art. And in this house, that much time spent on something other than Taylor Swift is quite an accomplishment.
More tracks from “Gold Rush Goddess” can be heard at Melody’s Bandcamp site, and the album is available for download for FREE (or Pay What You Can/Will), online. The hard copy costs more and I’d say it’s worth the money just for the lyrics and the look, feel and smell of a new CD.
Listen to a few tracks from Melody Walker’s “Gold Rush Goddess” here: