The debut album from Polly and the Billets Doux doesn’t stay in one spot too long. It flits between swinging honky-tonk, smoky after-hours jazz, the breezy innocence of the country farm hop and even a short detour to take in Forties palm court elegance. The four-piece from Winchester - Polly Perry on vocals and double bass, Andrew Steen on guitars and harmonica, Daniel Everett on bass and Ben Perry on drums - play retro-roots music that skips lightly between styles: bluegrass, swing, folk-blues, country-pop all get a look in.
The band sound naturally at ease with such versatility and Polly Perry’s vocals suit the journey without ever resorting to mimicry or feeling forced. Despite the album title, there is a homespun authenticity to this record that avoids the cosy and often clichéd stylings of glossier major label revivalist rivals. Opener ‘Follow My Feet’ is the undoubted highlight: a hymn to escape and independence delivered as taut and twangy call-and-response rockabilly. Also worthy of mention but more low-key are the rolling country-rock of ‘To Be A Fighter’, the gently bluesy strut ‘The Rounder’, the smouldering late-night come-on of ‘Charmed’ and the quiet country-soul tear-jerker ‘Lead Me On’.
“Fiction, Half-Truths and Downright Lies” is not a lesson in ground-breaking innovation. Its lesser moments don’t always manage to hold my attention and some may find it too cutsey and safe. But I’m drawn by its easy-going charm and the feistiness in Polly Perry’s vocals – at times she can sound like a young Lucinda Williams with a hint of kitten-purr Julie London.
I missed their recent visit to Manchester - they played Night & Day in October and also filmed a session for Manchester Scene Wipe - but I hear a UK tour in early 2011 should bring them back this way. And I suspect live is where to catch them at their swinging best.
Polly And The Billets Doux - To Be A Fighter by laurenrazavi
Fiction, Half-Truths and Downright Lies [BUY]