CD EP Reviews
Small Town Talk
This Time Around
Ma Polaine's Great Decline have a very distinctive sound that is for grown ups and often with themes that are not for the faint-hearted, what's more this owes a lot to the incredible voice of lead singer Beth Packer, .
The opener on their EP, which is a follow up to their fantastic album Got Me out of Hell, is Japanese Knotweed which is a tale about bizarre neighbours. Right from the off you get the depth of Packer's voice which somehow makes you almost feel guilty for listening to her decadent tones while at the same time she draws you in saying to yourself I have to hear this.
The sinister harmonies are fused with the throbbing beat and Packer's definite tone. She softens her tone for Waiting For The War which, although a lovely ballad, is quite a cynical song in that it appears there is an inevitability of the next conflict arising. The song neither moralises or questions the reasons but appears to lament the fact that sooner or later, someone somewhere will start another war.
Been Loved Too Much is a strange one, it has the feel of a torch song and as usual Packer's emotional vocals are as incisive as ever. The sprawling, almost lazy ballad which has Packer sounding tired and bored with other people's opinions has a soporific quality where she no longer cares, and gives the feeling that she doesn't care if people listen to what she is singing or not. However at the same time, she creates the feeling of a singer in a dark cavern of a night club casting her spell over everyone who hears her.
The last of the four tracks has a lighter feel while keeping the darker subject matter. Harvey is about an attempted bank robbery which ends in tragedy or poetic justice, depending upon your point of view. Packer pulls out her harmonica for this track giving it that bluesy, "dust bowl" feel which suits her style of singing so well.
Small Town Talk is available now through the band's website and download sites and you can catch them promoting the album on tour on June 11 at The Sitting Room, The Blue Boar, Ludlow, Shropshire. Doors open 8pm but no ticket details were available at time of publishing. On June 12 you can see them at The Velvet Violin, The Assembly Rooms, Presteigne. Show starts 7pm and tickets are £12. On June 13 they are at The Old Bookshop, Bristol. Show starts 9pm and entry is free. The show at the The Kitchen Garden Cafe, Birmingham on June 14 has been cancelled. On June 15 they play Mono in Chorlton followed on June 16 at The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle. Show starts 8pm and donations are welcome. It's on to Hot Numbers Coffee in Cambridge on June 17, show starts 7.30pm. This is followed on June 18 by a gig at Green Note, London. Show starts 8.30pm and tickets are £8. It's then off to The Duke of Cumberland, Whistable on June 19 and finishing the month at the Square & Compass, Swanage on June 24.
Kaity Rae seems to have made a slight musical shift from her debut EP Spark. The talented singer/songwriter seems to gained a stronger grip on the country side of acoustic music while at the same time incorporating a pretty strong commercial sound to her act.
It's fair to say her voice has matured somewhat since her debut disc in 2014 and there is an easier style to her singing in what in parts has the feel of a power ballad. It also gives her a chance to show the range her voice carries right from the off.
The disc moves on to This Time Around where Rae shows the gentler side to her singing and has a nice build up with the rapid-fire lyrics. Her breathy delivery gives the song a sensuous quality.
The track that follows is one that could be lifted out of the MTV generation songbook. Back In My Heart is perhaps the most commercially sounding track on the EP which will certainly give her an appeal to audiences which wouldn't necessarily listen to acoustic/Americana. It shows how she has become polished and produced but it lacks some of the rawness of Spark. The final track on the album is the best one, All That I Am, once again shows you how subtle but effective the lower and gentler range of her singing can be. The simple acoustic accompaniment is enough to keep the song moving along without being intrusive. You get a better feel for the not so produced side of her talent which is more honest and carries more emotion because of it.
Rae is a class act, versatile and has a voice many would love to have perhaps in the future she will take her talents in several directions, she has the skills to do it.
This Time Around is available now from the artist's website and through download.
You can catch her live at Rhythms of the World, Club 85, Hitchin on July 9 then on July 11 she plays Blue Monday, The Boogaloo, followed on July 16 at City Showcase, Embankment Market then on July 23 it's back to Rhythms of the World, Hitchin Town Centre.