Two years ago, having taken flight from One Little Indian following sophomore album Fingers & Thumbs to launch her own label, Paulusma released her third studio album, Leaves From The Family Tree. Mostly recorded, like her Scissors In My Pocket debut, in her garden shed, following the arrival of her daughter, the songs were littered with images of birth and new beginnings, counterpointed with an awareness of mortality. Now, comes the sister album, which, in the tradition of Cosmic Rosy Spike Kites and Fights & Numbers, is again an anagram of the main release and, through the alternative acoustic versions of the songs, provides an insight into the process.
Although stripped of fiddle, like the studio version, the strummed demo of ‘The Last Of Me’ retains the skipalong, handclappy vibe that hides its lyrics about time slipping by and people gone before you get to say goodbye and, generally speaking, although they tend to be a few seconds longer, there’s not any radical differences in form and structure between these and the finished articles; ‘Hallelujah’ is still noodled out on an electric piano and ‘Take Me Home’ still features the choral intro, albeit using treated reverb vocals as opposed to the churchy clarity of the final version. That’s said, ‘Two Houses’ misses its double bass and ‘Most Of It’ clearly benefitted from the subsequent addition of bottleneck, but, on the other hand, without its coat of strings and taken at a slightly slower space, ‘Don’t Ask Me’ has a more innocent air of naiveté here while ‘Wedding Day’ fares much better in this simpler setting. The most significant change is in ‘Blood Red Coat’, not just in the absence of the extra instrumentation, but also in a lazier pace and Paulusma’s different approach to the vocal delivery.
However, this is more than just a comparative study, since this version comes with five new numbers, demos that didn’t make it to more polished recordings. The first is ‘Fairylights’, an airy, strummed guitar number that musically lives up to the image of the title, with ‘Rainbow Eye’ echoing the pastoral, bucolic feel with its brushed drums, double bass and handclaps (I could hear this given a Paul Simon treatment) while ‘Call Of The Wild’ is a lovely, mandolin driven folk-country swayer atypical of her more customary style. Seeing the album out, ‘Sieze The Day’ has a slight bluesy feel, Paulusma multi-tracking her vocals and almost speaking the lyrics against soothing hand percussion, while, echoing the thoughts of time passing, the softly sung ‘State Of Mind’ offers a fingerpicked acoustic guitar chord progression that wafts a soothing breeze of 60s folk troubadours, Nick Drake, Tim Hardin and Eric Anderson in particular.
As the low key release implies, this is very much for her existing fans and, if you’ve yet to discover her, then I’d recommend one of the ‘proper’ albums as a starting point, but either way it again serves to underline a skill as songsmith and singer that remains woefully undervalued,
Artist’s website www.pollypaulusma.com