Ma Polaine’s Great Decline “Molecules”

MOH Records, 2024

West Country duo shine on captivating folk-blues album.

Finding out the background to any artist is always illuminating and reading the publicity around this release, it was a joy to read that one of the main members of Ma Polaine’s Great Decline is Beth Packer ‘who has a black humour that gives the audience the chance to laugh at themselves, our human connection, love and the complex facets of pain, with an understanding that life can go a bit wonky sometimes’. Any band revelling that ‘life can go a bit wonky sometimes’ has my attention from the get-go.

Ma Polaine’s are Packer and Clinton Hough and they hail from Frome in Somerset and they wanted this record to have the live rawness the songs they’d be planning to record deserved. So they invited local musician and friends Nick Pini on bass and Jimmy Norden on drums. Their music is a distinctive blend of folk, blues, and Americana.

Clinton Hough claims to have seen Muddy Waters playing guitar whilst still wearing nappies – and this experience really does seem to have paid off, as his guitar playing throughout this album is first class. Equally, though, Packer’s vocals are really impressive – passionate, expressive and truly emotional on many songs – her range is also amazing. The wonderful thing about this set of songs is that whilst on the surface it’s a folky americana album, their love of jazz and blues lifts many of the songs, with strong drumming and guitar licks that really do engage.

Opener ‘Jars‘ is a gentle song dealing with holding on to a failing relationship.’ River’ opens smoothly and builds with some fine guitar and drum work and we’re introduced to the power of Packer’s voice. ‘Back When You Loved Me’ has a more up tempo pop feel, with some great guitar work and it’s the most ‘commercial’ track on the album and all the better for it.

Say Goodbye’ starts as many of these songs do – hauntingly moody – before building the tempo in another tale of a frustrating relationship. The duo’s love of jazz and blues come to the fore on ‘Audrey’, with a lovely bassline opening that again builds with some really confident playing all round and the song has a slightly more optimistic tone.

This is a fine album which shows the band growing in confidence and it’s no surprise that R2’s Cerys Matthews is a big fan, giving them airplay on her blues show. It’s a gentle album that deftly mixes a more laid back feel with striking, upbeat sound, that mix perfectly. Lovely cover art also, care of the talented Packer. It’s an album to definitely look forward to as to what the band does next.


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