Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1093

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Review

Ma Polaineâs Great Decline:Got Me Out Of Hell (Self released)

Ma Polaine's Great Decline CD Cover pic

8

6.1

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UK release date 20.02.2015

One of the more unusual releases to hit my desk thus far this year. A mesmerizing, addictive vibe to it. Rootsy, bluesy, jazzy, gypsy flavoured. A British band pretty much doing their own thing to be honest. Would not like to have to file this under one category in a record store!

Crying out to be used on sound tracks. A very cinematic sound.. The icing on the cake is their vocalist. Stunning singer Beth Packer is someone to get to know. A new name to me, as is this band. But I am so glad they were brought to my attention. Especially Beth.

How to describe this sound? Well Iâll borrow a quote already out there about them: âWouldnât sound out of place in a speakeasy or the Left Bank.â

Taking inspiration from the 1940's jazz of Billie, the blues grit of the Wolf, and the genre sidestepping of Waits, London-bsed Ma Polaine's Great Decline create their own style of broken-down roots music; from painfully sparse bitter-sweet love songs, to fearsome tales of revenge, alongside country-soul ballads and infectious vaudevillian tango.

Their debut album features nine songs, all written by Beth Packer and Clinton Hough who are the nucleus of Ma Polaineâs Great Decline; Beth handles vocals and accordion and Clinton supplies guitar with additional piano and percussion.

The band formed in 2011 and most of the songs were written since their inception, although the penultimate song here, "Numb," predates that, but the sombre lyric of the song means it still fits right in.

The album was recorded in late 2014, with Nick Rye at the controls in a dimly lit dining room in deepest Surrey. Nick also supplying percussion and piano on the album. It was mastered by Gavin Lurssen from Lurssen Mastering in California.

The band line up is completed by John Gillies (tenor and soprano sax, piano) and Chris Clavo (double bass).

Bethâs lyrics come from her personal take on life, but she doesnât like to explain them, preferring to let the listener take what they will from a song. I admire that stance.

The concept behind the band was not pre-determined, the songs are written without a requirement to stay within the boundaries of a particular genre, the lyrics covering veiled tales of love, the joys and pains of the music world, and are told with melodic invention and an emotive vocal.

Beth and Clinton performed the early gigs as a duo, placing an emphasis on writing and instinctively developing a distinctive sound for the band. Alongside gigging around London, straddling the blues, folk and songwriter scenes, Ma Polaineâs Great Decline scoured the capital city to find the right musicians to make up the full band. Jon Gillies and Chris Clavo were added, and with Beth introducing her own harmonica and accordion, the band utilise the combinations of different sounds to give the songs just what they need.

Ma Polaineâs Great Decline have previously released two EPs, the second, "Suffer It Well", was released in 2013 and drew high praise and plenty of radio play. The EP title track reached the semi-final of the International Songwriters Competition.

Bethâs voice sends shivers down the spine on the new album. Thereâs power, attitude, grace and vulnerability all rolled into one. A throwback to the war years and perhaps even further back than that.

Haunting, seductive and sultry, sheâs got it all going on in those pipes. No one out there like her that I know of, doing what she does and how she does it. There is Veronica and the Red Wine Serenaders from Italy, Davina and the Vagabonds from the USA and our own Kitty, Daisy & Lewis from the UK, but while they are sort of similar, they are all very different to Beth and her band too, if that makes sense.

Think Imelda May without the rockabilly. Think Merlene Dietrch without the accent! Think Edith Piaf without the vibrato. Better still; think about picking up a copy of this album and finding out for yourself.

UK SHOWS:

The band are currently on the road for some UK shows through to the summer: 5th March The Old Duke, Bristol, 6th March The BeeHive, Swindon, 7th March Miss Peapod's, Penryn, Cornwall, 8th March Troon Church Hall, Troon, Cornwall, Mar 28 Beggars Banquet Café, Shaftesbury, Mar 29 Queen's Head, Farnham, Apr 07 The Blues Kitchen, London, Apr 12 The Gladstone, London, Apr 19 Duke of Cumberland, Whitstable, May 01 Shoreditch Town Hall, London, May 17 Rickmansworth Festival, Hertfordshire, May 23 MONO Chorlton, Jul 11Tiverton Balloon Festival, Tiverton.
Words SIMON REDLEY

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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