ORGAN THING: A rather fine first taste of Polly Paulusma’s forthcoming collection of traditional folk songs gracefully recrafted…

Today’s Organ Thing of The Day is mostly about discovery, about a first taste of Polly Paulusma’s folk flavoured album. on the strength of this rather fine taste, “gracefully recrafted” is jsut about right. The new album ‘Invisible Music’ is released on April 23rd via Wild Sound / One Little Independent Records amd featuring Kathryn Williams and Kirsty Logan. Can’t say we’ve taken too much notice of Polly before but this first taste of “a collection of traditional folk songs that influenced novelist Angela Carter, gracefully recrafted by Polly Paulusma” has some of us around here wanting to discover more on this sunny Friday morning. This is her rather beautiful version of a traditional folk song that has been recorded many times in many evolving ways, as Jack-a-Roe by some, as other slight variations by other, maybe none as fine as this…

Here’s what the press release has for us

‘Invisible Music’, a collection of traditional folk songs that influenced novelist Angela Carter, gracefully recrafted by Polly Paulusma, will be released by One Little Independent subsidiary Wild Sound on April 23rd. Also included are an array of readings by Paulusma as well as guests Kathryn Williams and Kirsty Logan.

This epic assortment explores a multitude of lyrical themes from long past, most of which describe in grizzly detail dramatic loss, love, incest, abduction, war and death. Having discovered that Carter either sang or knew these songs, reframing these ballads became important to Paulusma — songs such as ‘The Maid and The Palmer’ which depicts a survivor of child abuse, or ‘Jack Munro’ which bears witness to the wartime antics of a cross-dressing heroine whose bold challenges to society bring her out on top, or ‘Lucy Wan’ where we’re privy to a brutal slaying of a young woman whose brother is never held accountable. Paulusma could feel the presence of these songs in Carter’s writing, but she needed to climb inside them and sing them herself to truly understand their power. Across the entirety of this LP we’re given the chance to view forgotten historical tragedies through a fresh lens, and through proximity to readings from Carter’s prose, to see the interplay between these old songs and Carter’s contemporary writing. Through Carter, Paulusma brings us the heroines she was influenced by, restoring historical narratives of female agency which are in danger of being lost.

The spoken word pieces from across Carter’s oeuvre, read beautifully, emphasise the musical turn of Carter’s phrase, and serve as an accompaniment and interlude to the dark folk songs. The album as a whole is littered with unique and alluring musicality, with Paulusma delving deep into interesting guitar techniques and odd tunings, supported and enhanced by the sweet fiddle melodies of Jed Bevington (Mortal Tides), the haunting accompanying guitar movements of Jack Harris, and the elastic double bass of John Parker (Nizlopi, Ward & Parker, The Willows).

These tracks were reworked by Paulusma with help from an Artist Bursary from the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and recorded with help from a Music Award from the University of East Anglia Music Centre.

Back in 2003, tucked away in her garden shed, Paulusma was putting the finishing touches to her self-produced debut, recorded on a home computer with one microphone and a budget the size of a postage stamp. ‘Scissors In My Pocket’, a work of aching acoustic tenderness, was the result, and it received immediate and widespread critical acclaim upon its international release on One Little Independent in 2004.

Paulusma was catapulted around the world supporting Bob Dylan, Jamie Cullum, The Divine Comedy and Marianne Faithfull, and played Glastonbury, T in the Park, V Festival and Cambridge Folk Festival among many others, touring the USA and Italy. She signed to Sony/ATV in LA, and opened for Coldplay at their secret show at The Troubadour in West Hollywood. Paulusma made a sibling album for ‘Scissors…’ called ‘Cosmic Rosy Spine Kites’ (an anagram) — all the same songs, but different versions — which was released in 2005.

In 2007, after a series of miscarriages, Paulusma released a darker and more driving, deeply personal second album ‘Fingers & Thumbs’, produced by Ken Nelson (Coldplay, Gomez, Badly Drawn Boy, Kings of Convenience) and recorded in Liverpool’s Parr Street studios. She toured the UK extensively and made cult Youtube Guitar Shop videos along the way. Its acoustic variant album ‘Fights and Numbers’ came out in 2008.

In 2012 Paulusma founded the Wild Sound folk label, releasing ‘Leaves from the Family Tree’, which includes collaborations with Sherlock composer Michael Price, Adem (Fridge) and US folk songwriter Erin McKeown, and its own sibling ‘The Small Feat Of My Reverie’. Wild Sound subsequently released albums of notable acoustic folk artists Maz O’Connor, Dan Wilde, Mortal Tides, Harry Harris, Stylusboy, and Matthew The Oxx. In 2017 the label became a folk imprint at One Little Independent.

Paulusma began teaching Cambridge English undergraduates in 2013; in 2015, she was awarded an EFDSS Artist Bursary followed by a full award for a PhD, from which her eighth and newest album, ‘Invisible Music’ — folk songs that influenced Angela Carter’ stems. This album presents in sound Paulusma’s theories about the complex inter-relationships between music and literature. Her ninth album, ‘The Pivot On Which Everything Turns’, will present the wealth of songwriting since 2012. Slated for release in 2022, ‘Pivot’ includes notable songwriting collaborations with Kathryn Williams, Astrid Williamson, David Ford and Danny George Wilson.

About Angela Carter

Angela Carter (1940–1992), was an English novelist, short story writer, poet, and journalist, known for her feminist, magical realism, and picaresque works. She is best known for her collection of short stories, ‘The Bloody Chamber’, which was published in 1979. In 2008, The Times ranked Carter tenth in their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. In 2012, ‘Nights at the Circus’ was selected as the best ever winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Album pre-order details


One thought on “ORGAN THING: A rather fine first taste of Polly Paulusma’s forthcoming collection of traditional folk songs gracefully recrafted…

  1. Pingback: ORGAN: Five Music Things – Lou Barlow, LA’s Tashaki Miyaki, Lucky Baby Daddy, Polly Paulusma, Graham Costello, more Special Interest and… | THE ORGAN

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