WHITE DOTS (digital/physical release Summer 2019)
MOJO * * * *
Norfolk-based singer/songwriter creates a joyful soul pop follow-up to 2009’s Lemon
A cross-dressing train driver who likes lipstick and high heels. Two boys in Mexico City playing trumpet and tuba on the streets. A woman sitting in a car park in someone else’s car, heartbroken. These are characters on Wolfe’s latest album, a collection of songs that combine glorious Brill Building-style chant, jazz drums and lustrous strings. Like a latter-day Carole King, Wolfe delivers each track with a high clear voice, observational humour and a quiet sense of drama. The barely there bossa nova beat on ‘Traces’, the fuzzy guitar and exquisite lament of ‘White Dots’, the wistful trumpet of ‘Paris Metro’ – flowing arrangements build and drive each track, leading us through a world of broken love, memory and magic realism. Sweetly addictive. Lucy O’Brien
LEMON (remastered and due for re-release Spring 2019)
MOJO * * * *
Paula Wolfe’s 2004 debut Staring had promise. Having followed her muse from Manchester to London to rural Norfolk, her follow up’s in a different league. Lemon is a mood shifting, musically inventive piece of work, each song a slowly evolving story. Wolfe paints vivid pictures – whether singing about bickering lovers, lonely widows or the English gated communities of southern Spain. This is the album that finally puts Wolfe on the map. Lucy O’Brien
UNCUT * * *
A self produced, self released LP by a tender and idealistic singer-songwriter from rural Norfolk, Lemon turns out to be a quiet gem, subtly sung with the obligatory acoustic guitar enhanced by dreamily understated strings. Best of all, Wolfe’s a splendid songwriter weaving engaging stories about immigrant mothers struggling for acceptance and the lonely paranoia lurking inside a gated community. Rather fine. Nigel Williamson
MAVERICK * * *
A collection of stunning miniature dramas and stories, the lyrical content is exceptional and demands a prominent position in the success of the record. I’d say she’s Beth Navaro crossed with Dido and sometimes crosses to the cusp of a Lena Marlin-songstress. There are songs that offer stunningly descriptive stories and gorgeous vocals, such as track 5. The arrangements are at times grand, at others times minimal. Laura Bethel
Head of Music BBC Radio 2 and 6Music:
A very nice album with well crafted songs and good production.
The Guardian Hay Festival:
Mesmeric guitarist and songwriter
Independence. That’s the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of female singer-songwriter Paula Wolfe. And before one begins thinking of negatively in some bizarre, PC manner; this isn’t some attempt to paint her into a stereotype, but merely a chance to highlight the determination and flare of the young femme, as not only did she pen and record her debut offering ‘Lemon’, she even produced and mixed the thing. Now that’s dedication and that’s certainly independence.
But the question NN is sure many are wondering is ‘Just because one is inertly proud of their art, does that make it good?’. And the answer is yes. From the opening folk ebb of ‘How Can I?’, with its beautiful lyrics and gentle melodies, through to the luscious harmonies and quirky instrumentation of ‘Cheer’, Wolfe is clearly not a woman that does things by half.
Moving onto the poignant lyrics of ‘A Place In The Sun’ and the interesting moog work and vast melodious offerings of ‘Not Lonely’, one is left in awe of what it is Wolfe has come to create on her debut offering, as each song is pumped full of quirky ideas, interesting instrumentation and touching words of struggle and sorrow, one can only admire the work of this young genie.
Add to this the atmospheric lull, moving lyrics and string-fuelled swell of
‘Asylum’ and the end result is a flawless exercise in modern art, that boasts enough melody to make this as a warm and approachable as possible, whilst being unafraid to extend an olive branch to the musos; stunning. Tom Brampton http://newnoisemagazine.com/
When I reviewed her debut album I likened her story based songs to the musicals of Willy Russell and suggested that perhaps her future lay less as a live performer and recording artist and more as a songwriter for the West End stage.
I still reckon that’s where her biggest success may yet lie, but this sophomore release is more persuasive in making a convincing argument for a place among female singer-songwriter CD collections.
Again released on her own label, it’s again a pretty much one woman show, though she does delegate drums, bass and strings duties. Musically, while Not Lonely has an uptempo rock dynamic, it mostly stays within the same warm sophisticated jazz flecked pop territory of its predecessor, Somewhere In Between (a song drawing on her own experience as ‘an Irish child in London with an English accent’) conjuring Brill Building era visions and even hints of Randy Newman.
However, if her debut was largely populated by children, the characters here are adult, though not necessarily any less emotionally wounded or dysfunctional. For example, How Can I? where the opening line has its relationship screw up declaring ‘I’ve been a bitch today’, the title track’s character worn out with arguments and throwing the blame around, or the grieving aged widow of Freddy And Eve. Loneliness, be it through loss, rejection or self-destructive behaviour looms large on This and Not Lonely. And anyone who’s ever seethed while queuing behind some OAP should listen to Cardigan Pockets and get a compassion transfusion.
Her Mike Leigh/Ken Loach sensibilities remain sharp too with the immigrant mother in Asylum bitterly documenting the prejudices meted out to her and her kids by an unaccepting community and her experience of the Little Englander mentality of a gated community in Spain. And, the self-interest themed Cowboys is drawn from bitter personal experience of some dodgy builders who causes the completion of her studio and the album to be delayed by a year.
But, they say that if life gives you a Lemon then make lemonade, and Wolfe finds sweetness too; the promise of the spring and summer that lie ahead in La Ranche En Hiver and the rays of optimism sprinkled through Cheer. She’s a formidable eccenCitric talent. Mike Davies
Not quite belonging is the strangest place to be, not actually being part of something but caught up in its momentum be it a place, a person, a feeling. Paula Wolfe seems to capture that emotion and turn it into a narrative and ultimately a song. She’s got a knack for hitting the mark on both sides of the desk. She also produced Lemon and managed to avoid the pitfalls that can arise when you do everything on your album. There’s a mellowness that also pervades the album and stops it from becoming too bitter a journey of self-discovery for writer and listener. Neil King. http://www.fatea-records.co.uk/magazine/
I don’t know whether it’s meant to be but Lemon somehow sums up this glorious album by Paula Wolfe; one of your required ‘five a day’, a sweet treat, at times slightly bitter but always refreshing!
I suppose a comparison would help here; think Suzanne Vega, think Kate Bush, think an amalgamation of the two, then think Paula Wolfe. Lemon is right up there with the big albums of our time – a real contender, a stunner! Lemon is fairly understated sounding affair and yet Wolfe gives it everything – inspirationally conceived and wonderfully written songs, stunning arrangements, superb execution – it’s all here! It’s fanbloodytastic!.
Paula Wolfe has a seemingly natural ability to make you stop and listen to her songs – and definitely, these are songs worth getting in to! Wolfe’s majestically descriptive lyrics are made even more tangible by her great use of punctuative rather than confusing instrumentation. Sure there’s plenty to listen to, it’s not actually stripped bare but it is wonderfully coloured by empathetic strings and things. Wolfe is a natural and Lemon is simply splendid!.
Lemon by Paula Wolfe is a mature and sensitive work that’s easy to listen to and a pleasure to behold; clearly a great lyricist, obviously a gifted instrumentalist and certainly a visionary musician – Wolfe shows massive ability and creativity that cries ‘potential’. Lemon is massively commercial and given decent air-play and promotion I can see ‘Lemon’ becoming one of the ‘must have’ albums of the year. ‘Lemon’ by Paula Wolfe sits somewhere in the same mould as Damien Rice’s ‘O’; on the more sensitive side of the ‘acoustic’ arts, deep yet homely, educated craftsmanship delivered with finely honed professionalism and definitely one for the more discerning ear. Lemon by Paula Wolfe is a little beaut and deserves massive success!! Peter J.Brown
THE IRISH WORLD:
She confounds the well-worn stereotype of what a female singer is and should be. An intriguing album full of exquisitely told stories. Lemon looks set to make its own unique mark on the music world. Shelley Marsden
THE IRISH POST:
A stirring collection of tunes…Paula is a self proclaimed one-man band of the most modern kind. Fiona Audley.
Up and coming star.
Full article and interview:
EASTERN DAILY PRESS:
The Norfolk-based singer and songwriter’s second album is a polished collection of heartfelt songs which show her talents as singer, musician, writer and producer. Her voice is clearly enunciated , the timbre sweet and the acoustic guitar-work melodic.
But there’s steel underneath that sweet exterior with Wolfe’s lyrics going to unexpected places, such as a swipe at ‘Little Englander’ mentalities in the Spanish-set in ‘A Place in The Sun’. The title track is typical of the sincerity which flows through this set. Trevor Heaton.
Musically, this is spot on with some great guitar…but the best part is Paula Wolfe’s voice. This is one lady who has an amazing voice and I’m surprised she isn’t a mega star in this country. Lemon is a great album and one that certainly needs to part of your collection. Steve DIY.
Paula Wolfe was born in Dublin yet moved to London as a child. Lemon is her second album, a self-written, self produced and performed effort released on her own label.
‘Lemon‘ is a tasteful collection of acoustic songs with just the occasional track featuring an electric guitar or a more up tempo feel. She manages to hit the nail right on the head, lyrically she has a remarkably fresh look on life. The title track is a good example – a slow motion, sunny springtime with just a light sprinkling of rain. The lyrics really do raise this above other musical wallpaper. ‘Cheer’ is a near-perfect number with the same relaxing and special atmosphere as the title-cut. So, if a quiet and intelligent singer-songwriter is what you want, rather than all too much shouting, Paul Wolfe could well be just the one for you.
Paula Wolfe is worth a listen on this her second album as she covers many musical bases and has a lovely, melodious voice. There are jaunty tunes like ‘Not Lonely’, reflective acoustic numbers such as ‘How can I?’ This is self- produced with a clear, crisp sound throughout.
All this album needs is one song to get some airplay and Paula Wolfe will become a much more widely known name, she has the songs to back her undoubted vocal talent. Jason Ritchie.
This is a rather accomplished set of singer / songwritery stuff. Some interesting songs and arrangements lift the album into the realms of the very good. Think Suzanne Vega without the annoying side order of smugness.
The highlights are many, but include ‘Asylum’ which relates the third party tale of a mother and her kids moving into a small English community, and the ‘welcome’ they receive, and the tale of a young couple flitting to rural France in ‘La Ranche en Hiver’.There is more than enough here to keep a battalion of Guardian readers very happy indeed. Stuart A Hamilton.
Textured, well produced and Wolfe has a beautiful voice. This is the sort of thing you might hear being championed by Radio 2. The story telling nature of the tracks make them resonate in your consciousness. Greg Thomas.
STARING (remastered and due for re-release March 2019)
MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS:
An uneventful night on Oldham Street, Manchester, may not seem the stuff to gee up the songwriter’s muse, but Paula Wolfe seems to specialise in such eloquent observations of the urban and banal. Hence we also get Skinny, a simple descriptive song about a skinny white girl, Leanne, another outsider’s hymn about a little girl, and West Side, which is about waiting for something to happen on a dull Sunday afternoon. Such naval gazing comes couched in appealing acoustic arrangements, but the really striking feature is Wolfe’s voice, which has the kind of exotic intensity of Kate Bush coupled with a head-girl quality of earnestness. Paul Taylor
Chances are you haven’t heard of Paula Wolfe yet, but if you get down to Night and day on Monday 23rd February, you’ll get the chance to see her as part of the Roadworks Tour, and fall in love with her sweet, sweet, voice and twisted tales of urban life. According to her press release, Paula, “strains for the fluidity of Ricki Lee Jones” as a musician, “lies somewhere between Chrissie Hynde and Patti Smith” as a performer, but writes with a heart that “is all Tom Waits”. Whoever she is, though, it all sounds very beautiful to us and she’ll make a change to the usual bish bash rock kids that roll all over the night and day stage.
A rising talent.
Easy-on the-ear, sensitive female singer songwriting for those whose cockles get warmed by Suzanne Vega and Dido. Jude Rogers
Her debut album Staring is a true solo effort given that she played every instrument, wrote every song and self-produced the album. She’s had a chequered history, being born in Ireland, raised in London and paying her musical dues in Manchester. She was also the singer in a punk-folk group but Staring sees her travel a more sedate path. She’s relocated back down in London now but the first thing you notice about Wolfe is her very Northern sensibility. It’s unusual to hear someone singing in an English accent and Wolfe pulls it off. Staring is hard to fault. The opening track Walk Away combines swooning strings and a lovely strummed acoustic guitar to dreamy effect. The title track follows and is probably the best song on the album. Wolfe employs a part sung, part spoken word approach to the verse before sliding deliciously into the chorus. In parts it’s reminiscent of early Suzanne Vega, having similar intelligent, literate lyrics. Lyrically, Wolfe has a talent for portraying characters and situations with the eye of a screenwriter. Oldham Street describes a rather bleak night in Manchester only ending when she falls back into her lover’s bed. Similarly, Leanne gets into the mind of an emotionally scarred child (“Leanne hides her head in her jumper when she’s sad”) while West Side empathises with bored children who have been neglected by their parents. You need something a bit different to stand out from the rest of the crowd with this type of music. Wolfe does enough to suggest she could become a major talent. Staring definitely marks her out as a name to watch. John Murphy
Paula Wolfe possesses a lush, dreamy, little-girl-lost voice that can send goosebumps marching up and down your spine, and when she uses a conversational tone her halting, fumbling phrasing recalls Sophia Churney on Ooberman’s haunting Shorley Wall?. It sounds like indie heaven then, and it could be, for Wolfe’s self-penned songs are as scathing and unflinching as anything by Trembling Blue Stars; if she sticks to the acoustic guitar, or can recruit a class backing band, she could challenge Thea Gilmore. Here’s hoping.
A pretty good album. If Elkie Brookes and Alanis Morrisette shacked up in Manchester and somehow produced a love child, Wolfe would be the joyful result. Her voice and lyrics ring with maturity and experience: philosophical, observational and ultimately positive. Although certain songs border on the Gorgonzola-front lyrically (Oldham Street, Leanne), they are delivered in such a relaxed, Northern tone that one cannot help but warm to this wide-eyed Wolfe. When I first heard this album, it caught my attention. It wasn’t the craftmanship of the songs; it wasn’t the arrangement (Wolfe plays every instrument on the album) nor the musicianship; what made me melt just a little bit was the honesty. She means every word, which I believe is a rare and exceptional talent. I’d love to stumble into a pub in the Northern Quarter and find her, with the room in the palm of her hand, strumming a guitar.
7/10 Carol Hodge
Born in Dublin, raised in London, educated in Hull and musically bloodied in Manchester where she briefly played with punk folkers Gone To Earth before cutting loose to go the singer songwriter route. Now relocated back down south where she’s been making increasingly bigger ripples on the London acoustic circuit, this is her debut album, a solo effort in every sense having played, arranged and produced everything you hear. It’s also her own label. She’s not exactly rootsy, her music more informed by pop, light folksy jazz, and, one suspects from such numbers as West Side, May I and the spoken Maybe, the stage musicals of Willy Russell. As the latter observation may suggest, her songs tend to be small stories and snapshots, her landscape that of the inner city streets and estates (the voice may be sweet but she has the eyes of Mike Leigh) strewn with crumpled cans of beer and populated by hardened faces (Oldham Street) and hardened hearts (Staring). Maybe it’s the maternal instincts in her, but many of the songs deal with emotionally bruised children, the neglected kids of West Side, the emotionally withdrawn and scared girl in Leanne, the bored and the broken hanging around the corner on May I, the embittered teenage cynic of Joy. Maybe that’s also why, although she sees the despair, the emotional brutalisation and the numbing of too many dreams, she also offers notes of hope, the possibilities of bluer skies and better lives that cling by the fingertips to That Is The Way and This Time. Even if, as on Wind, that feeling is only for a day. MikeDavies. <ahref=”http://www.netrhythms.co.uk/reviewsw.html#wolfe”>http://www.netrhythms.co.uk/reviewsw.html#wolfe
FIND (remastered and due for re-release March 2019)
Gifted, graceful and wonderfully lulling, Paula Wolfe enjoys that all too rare quality of being able to command your attention to the point of dropping everything else. Within her vocal lies a phenomenal talent that she uses to great effect on these self penned compositions. ‘Coolest Kind Of Love‘ introduces an incisive lyrical style over an exquisite slice of acoustic guitar whilst the sublime ‘Trying‘ demonstrates a heavenly union between voice and piano.DickB