Follow Your Bliss
In their current incarnation, Po’ Girl are made up of four alarmingly talented multi-instrumentalists, two of whom share songwriting and lead vocal duties. Follow Your Bliss, recorded to tape using vintage equipment, finds them playing with a characteristic joie de vivre, swapping instruments and playing off each other with infectious enthusiasm. The only word of caution is that both singers have a distinctive singing style, owing more to jazz than country, which is something of an acquired taste and may not be to everyone’s liking.
Allison Russell has been involved as a lead singer and songwriter since the band was formed in 2003, while Awna Teixeira didn’t join until 2006. But they now seem to be equally important to the Po’ Girl sound. For much of the album they alternate songs, Russell writing and singing seven and Teixeira taking six (the one remaining song being a band composition).
The album opens strongly with “Kathy”, featuring a tasteful horn arrangement and Benny Sidelinger on banjo, in which Russell bemoans that the Kathy of the title doesn’t sing and play music any more. Russell’s “Follow Your Bliss” is also excellent, featuring dobro and horn section and Russell herself on accordion. The song alludes to the writings of Joseph Campbell who, drawing from Hindu philosophy, suggested the route to self-awareness came from following the bliss, or rapture, that lies within each person: Follow your bliss, That’s what he said, Soon enough we’ll all be dead.
Some of Teixeira’s songs are a bit more sober and reflective. “Western Skies” is one of the best, featuring some yearning harmonica from her, and some fine banjo and dobro interplay. Even tackling sadder subjects – on “Pink Shoes”, she sings about a friend who died young – they do so with a lightness of touch that is never in the slightest maudlin. “In The Days”, about the loss of loved ones, tackles a similar theme, but this time set to a perky tune with Russell offering some fine clarinet.
“Maudite Guerre” is a band composition that came about from their warm ups during sound checks. Highlighting accordion and handclaps, with traditional lyrics sung in French, and the whole thing set to a polka beat. The best that can be said about it is that it shows the band’s willingness to try something different, for it’s certainly atypical and really rather odd.
Po’ Girl are full of life, and ‘Follow Your Bliss’ is an accomplished confection of strong, jazzy songs. The band has a quite distinctive and easily recognisable sound, epitomised by the singing of Russell and Teixeira. This means if the band is new to you, it’ll only take a song or two to decide if they’re for you or not. As for existing fans, there’s more than enough here to satisfy.