Just into the campaign and Paula Wolfe’s new album, White Dots (* * * * MOJO) is already being hailed as ‘exquisite’ with her production on this latest ‘collection of songs that combine glorious Brill Building-style chant, jazz drums and lustrous strings’ positioning her as ‘a latter-day Carole King’ (Lucy O’Brien). Performed with ‘a high clear voice, observational humour and a quiet sense of drama’ (LoB), Wolfe presents a new array of characters that include a cross-dressing train driver who abandons the drudgery of his shift for the glamour of a night club, an ageing bachelor looking for late love online and Mexico City’s street children working its nocturnal streets while their compatriots busk on the Paris Metro on the other side of the world.
Joining Paula in her sonic tales of survival are an eclectic range of musicians all of whom she recorded in the Grade II Listed, 16th century country house she renovated to house the project. The richness and depth in the sound are in part thanks to their performances captured by Wolfe amidst the natural acoustics provided by the ancient beams and the timber and stone fireplaces and floors. Adding to that warmth is the state-of-the-art analogue outboards used to master the album in another ancient rural retreat by veteran mastering engineer and Sound on Sound writer Eric James. James has also remastered Paula’s entire back catalogue due for re-release following the new album.
Throughout her career, the work of the London and Norfolk based artist-producer has consistently received strong support. It is no surprise, therefore, that this ‘joyful soul pop follow-up’ (**** Mojo LoB) to her critically acclaimed 2009 Lemon (**** Mojo, *** Uncut, *** Maverick) is proving to be no exception. Viewed as ‘sweetly addictive’ in which the ‘flowing arrangements build and drive each track, leading us through a world of broken love, memory and magic realism’ (LoB), this third album confirms Paula Wolfe as ‘a major talent’ (MusicOMH) and affirms her reputation as ‘a splendid songwriter’ (Nigel Williamson, Uncut), who writes ‘exceptional’ lyrics delivered with her ‘gorgeous’ voice (Laura Bethel, Maverick). Little wonder her intelligent balancing of lyrical theme and musical form have earned her personal praise from the Head of Music at BBC Radio 2 and 6Music (Jeff Smith) and the type of accolade expressed by one critic who declared her last album ‘A flawless exercise in modern art, that boasts enough melody to make this as warm and approachable as possible, whilst being unafraid to extend an olive branch to the musos; stunning’ (Tom Brampton, New-noise.net).
Having garnered widespread praise for ‘hitting the mark on both sides of the desk’ (Neil King, Fatea Magazine), Paula is no less acclaimed as a live performer and has been described as simply ‘mesmeric’ (The Guardian Hay Festival) and ‘brilliant’ (Sky Arts). So, if critics have long marked her out as ‘a rising talent’ (Time Out) and indeed ‘a formidable talent’ (Mike Davies, Netrhythms), what has she been doing since her last release?
Well in between building a studio and then writing, recording and producing the album in its entirety, she completed a PhD in Music Production and Gender, established a global academic profile as a leading scholar in the field and secured a publishing contract with Routledge for a revised version of her doctoral thesis. Entitled, Women in The Studio, Creativity and Control in Popular Music Production, it is due for publication June 14: https://www.waterstones.com/book/women-in-the-studio-creation-control-and-gender-in-popular-music-sound-production/paula-wolfe/9781472474872.
If 2018 marked the year Paula finally completed all of her projects, 2019 is promising to be explosive.