Polly and the Billets Doux - Head Of Steam EP

Mike Hughes 08/11/2010

Rating: 3/5

Opening track Head of Steam comes in from the night with some lovely rattling bottle neck guitar, before being joined by Polly's voice. My first thought is that it is really more likely to have emanated from the small music bars in Printer's Alley, Nashville, TN; it's really quite incongruous to find that the band are from Winchester, England. The voices, the phrasing, the harmonies and the spaces between are really damn fine bluegrass tinged country. This is all augmented by the subject matter - a love song using that favourite traditional device of making the music replicate the sound of a steam loco whilst using railway analogies in such words as "we're building up a head of steam"

Like the rest of this four track EP this is largely played on acoustic instruments, with the double bass resonating nicely in the cans over string squeaks and the lovely rattle of that bottle neck. Lead Me On is more smoky, and has a loungey feeling with brushes on cymbals. It's one of those songs about a night out, where "the band doesn't mind if you hold me close". The spirit of Patsy Cline ain't far away and that's the truth. I Don't Know has more of an English folk feel in the acoustic guitar and double bass, while Polly's voice has what I find myself describing as 'jazz stylings', and this feeling continues in the last of the four tracks, I Would Ask, on which lead vocal duties are swapped back and forth, in a call and response manner. I have to say it's the first two tracks that do it for me, and do it well, while the second pair demonstrate a certain acquired versatility.

Compared to last year's album Fiction, Half-Truths and Downright Lies, this four track is a much quieter affair, and is more likely to find its way onto the stereo on a pensive evening. I was confused by the timing of this EP. Apparently, it first saw light last year before the album, but has now been re-released due to demand, long after the initial run was sold out. It's a well timed opportunity. That first track in particular deserves to be heard, it's a belter.

Polly And The Billets Doux at MySpace