Polly Paulusma – Scissors In My Pocket

Album Review by Mark Bayross

The title of soon-to-be ubiquitous Polly Paulusma’s debut album refers to an incident when, aged eight, she built a makeshift raft and nagged her mother to sail it with her up the river. Her mother eventually capitulated, but on the proviso that they keep it tethered to the riverbank by a length of rope. Young Polly, wayward urchin that she was, hid some scissors in her pocket with the intention of cutting loose and sailing to London.

Apocryphal this may be, but this story serves as a fitting metaphor for the singer-songwriter’s free-spirited upbringing and uncompromising approach to life, rejecting piano lessons at ten and re-writing a Paul McCartney song because “he had written the wrong words”. From her childhood to her student days at Cambridge, Polly must have been a right handful.

After flirtations with music, her career began professionally when she was asked to sing backing vocals on Ben & Jason’s 2001 album TEN SONGS ABOUT YOU, the catalyst for her to abandon any remaining notion of writing a novel, doing a PhD or getting “a proper job” and to throw herself headlong into her music.

Self-recorded in her shed in Clapham, SCISSORS IN MY POCKET is about as unfussy and direct as you can get. For the most part, it seems to consist only of Polly’s husky, folky voice and a smattering of acoustic instruments. Amazingly, a glance at the instrument list reveals this to be far from the case, but only on opener and single DARK SIDE and the euphoric GIVE IT BACK does the album kick into full-on vibrancy.

Nonetheless, this is an attractive collection of songs, Polly’s sparky wordplay and catchy arrangements, coupled with an irresistible voice, evoking everyone from Joni Mitchell to Norah Jones. Ms. Paulusma has an undeniable talent; I just hope that support slots with Jamie Cullum (who seems to have been created in a lab run by ‘Sunday Times’ music writers) don’t erode that rebellious streak of hers before it has a chance to shine.

4 stars

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