Polly and the Billets Doux - Fiction, Half-Truths and Downright Lies
It is hard to describe Polly and the Billets Doux without appearing to be derogatory. Please be assured that when I describe them as a band you’d love to be playing your village fete this summer that I consider this to be an attribute. They, like a cosy cardigan or favourite pair of slippers, exude warmth and comfort and you are happy to spend time in their company. There are no frills here, just gigging musicians who’ve decided to capture their set on record. Genres are flitted between with effortless ease, so we skip merrily from skiffle tinged rockabilly through latin jazz, Fairport-esque folk, occasionally pausing to sing the blues. It is quite incredible to find that the band have only been together since a first gig in a smoky west country venue back in 2006.
Follow My Feet opens the album with some rousing rockabilly skiffle which combines simple guitar licks and Polly’s groovy double basswork to produce something which sounds authentic and is not yet tainted by the terrible affliction that has come to be known as the Holland Hootenanny. To be a Fighter treads similar territory, bringing down the tempo a little and allowing Polly to seductively breathe life into a number which recalls Dusty’s Son of a Preacher Man.
There’s nothing on this album which you could accuse of being challenging or difficult, it is the sound of a good time being had by all- uncomplicated music which is the meat and drink of the English summer festival circuit. At times you could argue that Polly pushes her vocal range to just beyond breaking point and that things which work live perhaps require a little more refinement in the studio, but this is a minor quibble in what is, largely, a pleasurable, relaxing journey.
Charmed is one of the standout tracks for me, allowing Polly to really get into sultry latin jazz mode and provide her version of the kind of subtle, understated dance music that Bebel Gilberto has made her own. The guitar work is sublime, as it is throughout the album, in that it is kept simple and unobtrusive with no unnecessary frills. For those who prefer the country end of rockabilly to the skiffle then The Rounder should keep you happy with its chiming guitar work which is reminiscent of Sweetheart of the Rodeo. There’s even some classic British folk rock in the shape of Don’t Trouble Trouble; a song which really puts Polly’s voice to the test but should see plenty of women in flowery dresses dancing in the aisles when they next tour.