Rachael Dadd and Kate Stables (of This Is The Kit) have teamed up once again as Whalebone Polly to tour and to release an EP, Taproot and sill on Dreamboat Records. Though the songs are less harmonically driven and worked through than those on 2005’s Recording with the window open, and more individually characteristic of their respective writers, it’s nevertheless another fabulous record, thematically complete its own right.
Kate’s ‘The turnip turned’ leads off and stands out. Its subject is of somewhat greater complexity than a turnip. Though centred on a particular life event, the song remains mysterious and all the more deeply affecting for that – as if the words, and what they refer to, could stand for any listener in any situation. Like the EP as a whole, it moves from the specifics of individual experience outwards to our connections with our ancestral roots and the soil, connections which, however far we move or stray from them, underlie who we are and what we do. And the music is beautifully just-so, full of wonder, and iced with a touch of the sepia-toned brass-band-brass that helped make ‘In the neighborhood’ one of Tom Waits’ most heart-warming songs.
Both ‘Good good light’ and ‘Window’ see Rachael in a locked-down groove of rhythm driven by banjo, bass and percussion. Hers are 3:00 a.m. thoughts scurrying round a brain in a body that just wants to sleep; the songs reprise the cyclical variations on themes that made After the ant fight such a great album.
The second of Kate’s pair of songs, ‘And sometimes the sea’, crystallises the EP’s themes. Food, water, shelter, light, love, and the freedom to feel the wind on your face and the tide wash your toes. It’s elemental stuff, yet exquisitely poised – a tricky combination to pull off, but Whalebone Polly do.
A follower of Rachael Dadd and Kate Stables might begin to take the beauty of their voices – individually and in unison – for granted, until the sheer whistleable, singable nature of their songs tempts him to try and add his own flat monotone to the mix. Rachael and Kate are writing better-crafted songs, sung more beautifully, than any comparable solo or double acts, and it remains a mystery to me why they aren’t more celebrated.