By Polly Paulusma
Newspapers and magazines have a habit of either creating new genres, or just blowing them out of all proportion. Remember their journalistic gusto when Norah Jones broke big a year or two back? They were foaming at the mouth, proclaiming that female singer songwriters and/or jazz had been thrust back into the limelight by the smoky voiced temptress.
A year or so on, and the trend isn't slowing down. Instead of just jazz though, every female singer songwriter who writes their own songs is being signed up to labels all over the world. Take Katie Melua for example, with her debut album 'Call Off The Search' being raved about by everyone from the Daily Telegraph to Mojo. And then there are the likes of Joss Stone, the ever present Dido, Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys, Beth Orton and so on.
Musically though, this record has more in common with more folk orientated artists like Kathryn Williams or Kate Rusby, but without the ye olde timey lyrics about sailors or cows. It's a beautifully laid back acoustic album, complete with understated vocals, sounding not unlike Ms. Jones, especially on the gorgeously hazy 'Mea Culpa'.
The critics are already quick to show their affection for Polly, with Michael Parkinson declaring that "you heard her here first", and Nigel Williamson of The Times saying "you surely won't hear a better new singer songwriter in the whole of 2004". He may just have something there.
It's no surprise that artists like Paulusma are now starting to find a kinder music industry, instead of the one that has treated them with nothing but indifference for so long. With pop music entrenched in its own faeces, plus the added bonus that teenagers are not the biggest consumers of music anymore, it's understandable that a new, mature sounding genre emerged from the void.
The baton passed over to the over 40s last year, making them the biggest buyers of CDs in Britain. And boy are they making themselves heard. Enter Jamie Cullum (who she is on tour with), Gary Jules (who she toured with) swagging the Xmas no.1, Michael Buble on Parky every other week, and now Polly's on the scene.
For once, a generation has taste. This record is, in a word, beautiful. Paulusma's voice is distinctive and acrobatic enough to slip and slide over the subtle guitar strums and the booming sound that only a stand up bass can deliver. 'I Was Made To Love You', with its descending guitar strums and its beautiful lyrical meanderings is superb, as is 'Anywhere From Here', a simple but effective slice of smoky jazz, with only a guitar and her voice, it highlights her vocal gift with aplomb.
She enters the 'new jazz' ballpark with tracks like 'Perfect 4/4', 'One Day' and 'She Moves In Secret Ways', all of which she carries off in her own unique way. When was the last time you heard a Hammond organ in a Norah Jones track?! With simple arrangements and stripped down mixes, it highlights Paulusma's lyrical and vocal gifts, not to mention her knack for making a cracking song. Intelligent, relaxed and tender, this LP marks the start of something very special.
Stand up Polly Paulusma, your time is now.