Polly Paulusma’s new album, The Pivot On Which The World Turns, is a lovely labyrinth with enough melodic twists and feminine turns to make any inhabiting Minotaur grin and, despite his rather shady past, offer up a clever tune of his own design. This album has that kind of power.
And it’s not surprising, then, that the title is taken from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, with the important words, “Women, my boy, they’re the pivot everything turns upon”. This record is, quite simply, an immense heartbeat with an eternal pulse. Great folk music is always something like that.
By the way, my friend, Kilda Defnut, said, “Polly has an innocent voice that is fueled with saints’ blood and pine tree resin”. I say this album oozes with classic early 70’s British singer-songwriter magic.
The first song, ‘Snakeskin’, is steeped with enigmatic lyrics, a simple acoustic guitar, a wondrous jazz-pulsed bass, and that (Thank you, Kilda!) saints’ soft blood resin voice that dances like a nice aerodynamic rollercoaster ride.
But then, the RPM meter jumps several hurdles. ‘Back Of Your Hand’ rides a happy river current with a ‘Free Man In Paris’ vibe, a bounce house percussion and bass throb, and a folk joy that echoes the elation of (the great!) John Martyn’s song ‘Dancing’ that is “rocking ‘round the whole round town”, but this time, from a woman’s point of love’s pursuit. Ditto for the electric current of ‘Luminary’. This is an urgent “Come on, come on” clarion call to rally around any progressive flag. This palpitates with defiant hope.
In contrast, several songs descend into the lunar Sea of Tranquility. ‘Dirty Circus’ is a soul-drenched “tapestry” that recalls the best of Carol King. Then, ‘Bracklesham Bay’ begins with a spoken soliloquy coloured with a yearning bass and acoustic guitar that yields to a lonely song that truly does envelop the grooves with a featherbed melody (and violin solo!). It has the ethos of blue jeaned honesty, and much like Vashti Bunyan’s quiet art, goes in search of perfect utopian harmony.
But ‘Any Other Way’ is clever geyser popping proof in the belief in everlasting love, with a nice mention of “existential pain” that punctuates the weird lyrical humour of the tune. And hand claps just add to the festivities.
Then the pulse slows. ‘Brambles And Briars’ is a folk-strummed patient song with a lovely bass sound and yet another urgent vocal. And ‘Big Sky’ shimmers with silky keyboards and violin. It stretches the lovely labyrinth, and perhaps, provides enough mystery to make any Minotaur contemplate the complexities of his very own Greek mythology.
Now, (and this is huge NOW!): ‘Tired Old Eyes’, which is a beautiful song in its own right with its Danny Thompson-inspired bass line and subtle piano, does recall the blanketed starlit texture of Nick Drake’s warm ‘Northern Sky’ with a bit of John Martyn’s ‘Spencer The Rover’ in its melodic soul. Big compliment, there. Sometimes, a folk singer-songwriter get to tap into the “magic crazy as this”. And that ‘magic” is nicely tucked into this emotive “woodbine and ivy” comfort.
That said, the final songs inch always closer to a final dramatic conclusion. ‘Sullen Volcano’ is yet another simply-stitched soulful piano voiced tapestry (with a really great title!) And, ‘Robin’, with a graveyard sweet brimstone melody, smooths everything into an emotive prayer, like a sweetly-swelled mantra, with the words, “Love like there’s no tomorrow”.
Indeed, Polly Paulusma’s music pivots with feminine insight through the wild twists and turns of any day’s endless maze with melodies clever enough to make that Minotaur, despite that before-mentioned always shady past, cut out the tough guy act and enjoy these folksinger songs that are touched with, as my friend Kilda Defnut suggested, “an innocence fueled with saint’s blood and pine tree resin”, but also, the always fresh folk breath of well-written tunes.
Artist’s website: https://www.pollypaulusma.com/
‘Back Of Your Hand’ – official video: