Steve Abel & The Chrysalids: Flax Happy
By Simon Sweetman
Steve Abel released an under-rated pearler of a debut in 2006 ('Little Death') and his second album is, if anything, even stronger. Abel has been pegged as New Zealand's answer to Will Oldham (aka Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) and it is a pretty accurate call, despite the weight of expectation that might come with it. So far so good though, it has to be said. 'Flax Happy' features two duets with the erstwhile Be Good Tanyas singer/violinist Jolie Holland (recorded when she toured here shortly after Abel's debut was released). Anika Moa offers extra light and shade with her stunning voice (to me she always sound better in collaboration, this work matches her performance on Rhian Sheehan's 'Tiny Blue Biosphere'). Add in other notable band members (Geoff Maddock from Goldenhorse on guitar, Pluto's Milan Borich and Mike Hall, plus Gareth Thomas on keys) and Steve Abel & The Chrysalids could be the first Antipodean alt-country supergroup. Recorded by Dale Cotton, this album is simply fantastic.