Polly O'Keary & the Rhythm Method "Compass"

I first met Polly O'Keary when she played the Everett Marina with The Randy Oxford Band last summer, although I had heard her name mentioned or printed around the area, more likely in The Bluesletter. She added a dimension to the band that had been missing -- not to discredit Farko Dosumov, an astounding bassist in his own right! Polly seemed to bring a lot of energy and a vocal unlike any I'd heard or seen.

Shortly after meeting her, during my early stages of creating the cover for Oxford's "...it feels good...," I heard she was running a Kickstarter campaign and I offered to help out where I could.  Oxford & Co played a show in Monroe in September, and she'd mentioned to me that she hadn't even written the album yet, but we'd be in touch (I didn't get the cover gig, but I forgive her).  In less than three months after talking with her in Monroe, I had a copy of the new disc, "Compass" sitting in my mailbox -- in less than three months, people! This is a fully produced eleven-song CD, not an EP with a few songs...

Polly is joined by drummer Tommy Cook
and guitarist Clint "Seattle Slim" Nonnemaker, completing a power trio to be reckoned with -- which I found out first-hand at the
Mighty Mouth Blues & the Washington Blues Society's Mighty Monday (a live radio broadcast) at 3231 Creatives in Everett, WA, this past Monday.  After a rather enjoyable set by Blues Playground, Polly O'Keary & the Rhythm Method took the stage for (I think) nearly ninety minutes, showcasing many of the songs on "Compass," as well as some I had not heard. They kicked it off with "Fools Gold" from the album (a funky number that just jams and has a catchy chorus: "What's it worth, the love you sold? Fools gold..." ), and wrapped up the night with a soulful rendition of Blind Willie Johnson's "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine" (which she said she'd recorded many years prior). Between the two songs were a blissful array of musicianship and well-seasoned experience that went flawlessly from one song to the next, including having Seattle Slim do an old song from his days with The Alley Cats called "Thunderbird" (thanks Tommy for the title!); Polly had mentioned that the song was her earliest memory of hearing an authentic blues tune & that it stuck with her for 20-some-odd years).

Ok, so this started as a short review of the band's Mighty Monday gig...perhaps I should start the album review?

As I had mentioned earlier, "Compass" is an eleven-song CD that was created within the span of less than 3 months (to my calculations).  I know that if I tried cramming 11 songs in that amount of time, it would probably be likened to what our dog, Brandy, leaves for us as gifts in the morning... Not so with this definite power-trio! 
From the opener, "Fools Gold," to the closer (her gospel tune) "Let Me Be Kind," this album is filled with glorious moments that are sure to thrill listeners -- casual, and those more appreciative of the fusion going on here.

To say this is merely a "blues" album ("merely" -- haha, is there such a thing?) is hardly the case. Every song has its own identity, its own feel.  The hook-laden "Fools Gold" jumps out and screams, "radio airplay please!" A sure crowd pleaser, one
to get the show started on an energetic note, talks about priorities in life and putting things we "think" are important -- to us -- higher than they should be (in a nutshell, Polly ~ correct me if I'm wrong).

follows up, and completely changes gear. This is a fun, old-time-ish romp through lazy days, fun in the sun, music & friends. It reminds me of...not really country, not even old country, but I do think I can imagine a fiddle in the mix.  A very enjoyable tune. Here's a live video the song from their ReverbNation page (click here)!

In the latin (Mexican?)-tinged "Nothing Left To Say"
& the stomping "Harder Than It Has To Be," Polly really rips an ex a new one in ways I'd never heard before.  She made a comment the other night about obligatory heart-ache songs, but she does them in such a way I'd hate to be on the receiving end!

"Your Honor" and "Losing You Again"
bring very sobering moments to this album, both dealing with loss -- one at the hands of another, and the other about coping with losing a loved one.

"I've Got None" is a playful number, taking the listener through a few examples of someone who has someone (or many), while she has none. I love the feel of this song, and Polly's hushed tones as she tells the stories is a pleasure to listen to.

"How The Mighty Fall" brings things back up to the "Fools Gold" energy level, this one dealing with the realities of the music/entertainment industry; one can only stay on top for so long before they have to start all over again. Humbling, for sure, the experience, in many areas of life.

The funky "Stop Train" is a fun one, and I think Polly mentioned that this one received airplay the other night! Love the drive in this piece, a sure crowd-pleaser. Sometimes the journey is wonderful & things are going right...but sometimes things take a crazy turn and you just have to tell the conductor to stop!

"You Get Me High" is an enjoyable piece, not in the same vein as "Summer," but just as fun. While I don't think Polly's talking about taking a toke, I do think she's likening the feeling of having a loved one so dear as being euphoric. We should all have someone in our lives that lift us to that state. :)

The closer, a song which Polly calls her "gospel" song, is "Let Me Be Kind" (with backing vocals by Anita "Lady A" White)
. This is a gorgeous song, one that can easily be imagined heard in church. When time has passed beyond our lives, how will we be remembered? Did we give to those in need, offer help, show mercy? Polly states that she hopes people will say that "she was kind"... "Compass" ends in a direction for which we can all set a course for: to be kind to one another. It's an age-old gospel truth, one that echoes through time. Love one another, let us all be kind.


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    TSSutherland is a lover of music that thumps, bumps, rocks & wails! An avid believer in supporting local arts, this page will feature reviews of NW Blues, Rock & Funk.


    January 2014