KARINE POLWART – Laws Of Motion (Hudson Records HUD014)

Laws Of MotionKarine Polwart’s latest CD – Laws Of Motion, released on 19th October 2018 – is her seventh release. It is co-produced by Karine with Inge Thomson (who, along with Karine’s brother Steven Polwart, seems to have provided most of the additional instrumentation for the album) and Stuart Hamilton, and it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.

The CD came as a promo copy without a lyric sheet and composer credits, but from the publicity sheet I received I gather that some of the songs were co-written with Lau’s Martin Green, while there’s one I know to be a cover version. I guess the others are Karine’s own. She says “I didn’t set out to write songs on a unified theme – they’ve just landed that way. Perhaps that’s no surprise, given the times we’re in.” And in fact the themes of migration and war seem to predominate here.

  1. ‘Ophelia’ is an atmospheric song with a setting far removed from Hamlet’s Denmark. Australia, I guess, with its references to desert wind and eucalyptus? Perhaps it’s just that other songs here reflect the fear of nuclear apocalypse, but for some reason it suddenly reminded me of Neville Shute’s On The Beach.
  2. ‘Laws of Motion’, co-written with Martin Green, movingly observes the plight of the migrant.
  3. ‘I Burn But I Am Not Consumed’ is an epic mixture of spoken and sung lyric that addresses the 45th President of the US with the voice of “the ancient rock beneath the Isle of Lewis, birthplace of Trump’s mother, Mary Ann Macleod.” My guess is that Mr T. will not appreciate its pitiless analysis and reminder of his immigrant roots, if he ever hears it. But I do, very much.
  4. ‘Suitcase’ further develops the theme of migration, being about the Kindertransport, the rescue initiative that brought so many (mostly Jewish) children to the UK between Kristallnacht and 1940. The shadow of the death camps lies heavy on this intense lyric.
  5. ‘Cornerstone’ instructs us to “Tread lightly as you pass on by, and listen” – and yes, I think you should.
  6. Shinzaburo Matsuo sailed to Scotland after losing his family in Japan’s 1923 earthquake, and tended Isabella Christie’s celebrated Japanese garden until his death in 1937. The story is told in the beautiful ‘Matsuo’s Welcome To Muckhart’.
  7. I’m not sure what story lies behind the landscapes of ‘Young Man On A Mountain’ but it doesn’t seem to matter: the evocative lyric is carried perfectly by the melody and arrangement.
  8. ‘Crow On The Cradle’ will be familiar to old folkies: it’s Sidney Carter’s anti-war song, and well worth revisiting. Especially when it’s as beautifully performed as this, with some twists of melody and lyric that would somehow make it uniquely Karine’s own, even without the startling harmonies of the final bars.
  9. ‘The Robin’ takes a deceptively gentle melodic approach to a thoughtful lyric.
  10. The stunning ‘Cassiopeia’ takes much of its power from the contrast of spoken extracts from the 1979 leaflet Protect And Surviveissued by the Home Office during the Cold War with the fearful, unanswerable questions of a 9-year old“. One reviewer has dismissed the track as “perhaps fighting yesterday’s battles“, but I’m not sure we should be assuming now that “we are going to be survivors” any more than we should have done then. Strangely, the juxtaposition of speech and synth reminded me a little of Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds, but that doesn’t in any way reduce its impact.

Though Karine’s vocals and the instrumental work here are never less than perfect, this isn’t, perhaps, easy listening. Not, at any rate, if you pay attention to the words (as you should), though there are some fine melodies here. But Laws Of Motion is a CD that will repay close attention and repeated plays.

David Harley

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.karinepolwart.com/

‘Ophelia’ – official video:

Karine Polwart announces new album and tour dates

Karine Polwart
Photograph by Sandy Butler

Multi-award winning songwriter and musician, theatre maker and published writer Karine Polwart – six-time winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, including 2018 Folk Singer of The Year – will release a new album, Laws Of Motion, on October 19, 2018 via Hudson Records. Polwart’s seventh release, Laws Of Motion is the follow-up to 2017’s much-praised A Pocket Of Wind Resistance, which earned Karine & co-writer Pippa Murphy a New Music Scotland Award, alongside nominations for the 2018 Scottish Album Of The Year & Radio 2 Folk Album Of The Year. Laws Of Motion – recorded alongside long-term collaborators Inge Thomson (accordion, percussion, synths & vocals) and brother Steven Polwart (guitars & vocals) – will arrive amidst a 13 date UK tour, including London’s Cadogan Hall on October 17, 2018.

Karine is trailing the announcement with the first track to emerge from Laws Of Motion – delicate,  finger-picked album opener ‘Ophelia’. Polwart wrote it having witnessed the portentous, far-reaching after-effects of 2017’s Hurricane Ophelia from her Midlothian home. Says Karine; “When the easternmost Atlantic hurricane ever hit The British Isles, it brought with it Saharan sand and an uncanny light. Meantime, deadly wildfires ravaged Galicia and Portugal, causing black ash to fall as far north as Tallinn in Estonia. Isn’t it time we started acting as if we’re actually sharing the same earth, the same air?”.

A Pocket Of Wind Resistance used the migratory habits of geese to crack open universally human societal & ecological issues. Across Laws of Motion Polwart continues to coalesce the familial and the familiar alongside the unsettling and the unknown, driven as ever by her gift for empathy and accessibility. Subject matter as disparate as Trump, WW2 & holocaust survivors are drawn together by the laws of the album’s title alongside the experiences of migrants and allegorical folk & children’s stories. Speaking about the broad focus of the album (which includes co-writes with Lau’s Martin Green), Polwart says; “I didn’t set out to write songs on a unified theme – they’ve just landed that way. Perhaps that’s no surprise, given the times we’re in.”

Laws Of Motion is the latest in an evolving series of collaborative projects across which Polwart has combined music & storytelling with politics & environmental-societal issues. Karine wrote A Pocket Of Wind Resistance (a Songlines & BBC Radio 3 Late Junction Album Of The Year) as a musical companion to her acclaimed theatre debut Wind Resistance, now published via Faber & Faber and selected by Robert McFarlane as a Guardian Book of 2017. The production, which debuted at the Edinburgh International Festival with a residency at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, was written, musically directed and performed by Polwart, winning her the Best Music and Sound Award at the 2017 CATS. Alongside three other nominations, it also placed Polwart on the shortlist for the Best Actor ‘Scottish Oscar’ in the Sunday Herald Culture Awards.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

‘Ophelia’:

UK Tour Dates

17 October LONDON Cadogan Hall

18 October PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms

19 October PONTARDAWE Arts Centre

20 October MANCHESTER Royal Northern College Of Music

21 October EXETER Phoenix

22 October BRIGHTON Komedia

23 October CAMBRIDGE Junction

24 October LEEDS City Varieties

31 October SHREWSBURY Walker Theatre

1 November BRISTOL St Georges

2 November BIRMINGHAM Town Hall

3 November KENDALL Brewery Arts Centre

4 November GATESHEAD Sage

Tickets via https://myticket.co.uk/ and karinepolwart.com

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Resound (Shrewsbury Folk Festival)

ResoundCurated by Hannah James and released by Shrewsbury Folk Festival, Resound is a multi-tasking album. Firstly, it’s a tribute to Alan Surtees, founder and organiser of the festival and secondly, it’s a fundraiser for the Alan Surtees Trust which aims to give grants to young musicians and new musical projects. All the music comes from artists who have been associated with Shrewsbury over the years, often through projects commissioned by the festival.

The album has been, for the most part, cleverly sequenced. It opens with Oysterband’s powerful acapella version of ‘Bright Morning Star’ which certainly makes you sit up and pay attention and follows that with Jon Boden’s mighty ‘Audabe’. The foot comes off the loud pedal just a little wiith Patsy Reid’s ‘Thugainn’. I like the way that ‘Song For Lola’ by Lucy Ward is followed by Fay Hield’s ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ – two unashamedly northern voices side by side. Perhaps living in those climes during my formative years has made me equate the accent with authenticity. I wish that Kefaya’s ‘Indignados’ had been placed beside Grace Petrie’s ‘They Shall Not Pass’ – two songs about Spanish politics, albeit separated by several decades should be available to compare and contrast. The Demon Barbers’ version of ‘Ranzo’ is as good as anything they do but perhaps it could have been saved for a big finish.

The album now turns to pastoral themes. ‘The Lincolnshire Song’ by Miranda Sykes is gorgeous (although I’m holding out for the Peak District, Miranda) and Leveret’s ‘Bagpipers’ is one of their gentler pieces. ‘Vanished Birds’, another fine song by Jack Harris is followed by the lightest version of ‘Neil Gow’s Lament’ I’ve ever heard. Hannah modestly saves her own contributions for late in the proceedings. First comes ‘Tuulikki’s Tune’ from her Jigdoll album and then ‘Order & Chaos’ by Lady Maisery.

Karine Polwart’s ‘We’re All Leaving’ makes for an appropriate ending although I can never decide if a record like this is better served with a period of reflection at the end or something rousing and defiant. Whatever you think, you should buy this album – you wiill enjoy it and you’ll be contributing to a good cause.

Dai Jeffries

Project website: www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk/more/alan-surtees-trust/

‘Tuulikki’s Tune’ – live:

BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2018 – Winners Revealed

Photo Credit BBC

The winners of the Radio 2 Folk Awards 2018 have been announced in a ceremony broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio Ulster, from Belfast Waterfront in Northern Ireland.

A key highlight of the music calendar – now in its 19th year – the awards produced by 7digital saw a host of music stars come together in Belfast for an evening of recognition and show-stopping performances. The ceremony was presented by Radio 2 Folk Show host Mark Radcliffe and world renowned Gaelic singer, Julie Fowlis. Talented artists received prizes including Folk Singer of the Year, Best Duo, Best Album, Musician of the Year, Young Folk Award and many more.

Music legend Van Morrison presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to musician and producer Dónal Lunny for his massive contribution to folk music.

Photo Credit BBC

The Good Tradition Award went to the Armagh Pipers Club to recognise their contribution to the preservation, dissemination and progression of traditional music over more than 50 years.

Folk Singer of the Year was awarded to Scottish singer-songwriter and musician, Karine Polwart, a talented artist who is also a theatre maker, storyteller, spoken-word performer and essayist.

Photo Credit BBC

Dónal Lunny took to the stage to perform with acclaimed musician Zoë Conway on the fiddle, and earlier in the evening Cara Dillon performed accompanied by Sam Lakeman on piano and John Smith on guitar.

Photo Credit BBC

Opening the show with a rousing performance of Devil In The Woman was Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band, driven by brass and electric guitar. And across the night there were also fantastic performances from Lankum, with their song What Will We Do When We Have No Money?, Paul Brady with a solo acoustic rendition of the ballad Lord Thomas And Fair Ellender, and finally, a nine-piece from the Armagh Pipers Club brought the evening to a close with a performance of three specially composed new songs.
The evening included the presentation of the 20th annual BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, an educational contest that exists to discover the next generation of folk acts. Mera Royle, a young harpist from the Isle of Man, was the recipient.

Photo Credit BBC

Lewis Carnie, Head of Radio 2 said: ‘I’d like to congratulate all of tonight’s winners – the calibre of nominees was extremely high and the wealth of talent that was seen on stage across the evening in Belfast was spectacular. The Radio 2 Folk Awards is an annual celebration of the thriving folk music scene – supporting both established and burgeoning folk musicians – and part of our specialist music content that Radio 2 is proud to broadcast across the year.’

Influential singer-songwriter Nick Drake was inducted into the Radio 2 Folk Awards Hall of Fame to celebrate the lasting impression he has had on folk music, despite passing away at the age of just 26 in 1974. Had he lived, he would have turned 70 this year.

Olivia Chaney performed a special tribute with a sublime piano-based interpretation of Drake’s essential song, River Man. Olivia is a great fan of Nick Drake and a multi-talented singer, musician and songwriter. Her collaboration with The Decemberists, called Offa Rex, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2017. Her second solo album, Shelter, will be released in June 2018.

Photograph courtesy of Village Voice

Although Nick Drake’s music didn’t garner commercial success during his lifetime, decades after his early death, his music would find a wide and reverent audience. Featuring sublime and original guitar work which is heavy with meaning and mood, his work has been highly influential on singer-songwriters of all kinds. Actor Gabrielle Drake, Nick’s elder sister, was present at the Radio 2 Folk Awards to tell the audience how her famously shy brother might have felt about the occasion.

Later this evening (4 April) at 11pm on Radio 2, Lost Boy: In Search Of Nick Drake will be re-broadcast. In the documentary which originally went out in 2004, Hollywood film star Brad Pitt shines a light on the life and work of the cult singer-songwriter. Featured in the programme are contributions from producer Joe Boyd, engineer John Wood, Fairport Convention’s Ashley Hutchings, Gabrielle Drake and Nick’s late mother, Molly Drake.

The Folk Awards will be broadcast on Sunday 8 April on BBC Four at 9pm and on BBC Two Northern Ireland at 5.30pm, plus selected highlights will be available to watch at bbc.co.uk/radio2 after the show.

The full list of winners:

HORIZON AWARD presented by Jamie Lawson
Ímar

BEST TRADITIONAL TRACK presented by Val McDermid
Banks of Newfoundland by Siobhan Miller

BEST DUO presented by Rab Noakes
Chris Stout & Catriona McKay

MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR presented by Leo Green
Mohsen Amini

BEST ORIGINAL TRACK presented by Ralph McTell
The Granite Gaze by Lankum

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD presented by Van Morrison
Dónal Lunny

BEST GROUP presented by Finbar Furey
Lankum

HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Nick Drake

YOUNG FOLK AWARD presented by Lynette Fay of BBC Radio Ulster
Mera Royle

BEST ALBUM
Strangers by The Young’uns

GOOD TRADITION AWARD presented by Tommy Sands
Armagh Pipers Club

FOLK SINGER OF THE YEAR presented by Karan Casey
Karine Polwart

If you would like to order a copy of any of the winning artists or their albums (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

KARINE POLWART – A Pocket of Wind Resistance (Hudson HUDOO5)

Wind ResistanceOriginally conceived as the musical accompaniment to her theatrical debut production of the same name in collaboration with sound designer Pippa Murphy, this now takes on independent life as an album in its own right. Inspired by watching the migration of some two thousand geese to Fara Flow, a peat bog near her Edinburgh home, and the way they took turns to create pockets of wind resistance to assist each other’s flight, Polwart embarked on a project concerning how we depend upon and help one another, not a little reinforced by having become a mother. It also serves as a warning of the dangers of isolating ourselves from others.

It opens with ‘All On A Summer’s Evening’, a sparse rendering of the traditional ‘Skippin’ Barfit Through the Heather’ accompanied by minimal glacial glockenspiel and thumb piano notes giving a drone effect that gives way to a spoken word passage describing the area around Fara Flow and introducing the narrative’s central characters, farmer and ex-soldier Will Sime and his wife, Roberta.

It flows seamlessly into the atmospheric ‘The Moor Speaks’ which, arranged for harp, drums, bass and a dense skein of backing vocals, offers a list of the many different mosses that grow here and, an indication of Roberta’s pregnancy, a refrain about “my little one” interwoven into a web of Gaelic hymn and field recordings.

Next up comes a carefree, buoyant treatment of ‘The Lark In The Clear Air’ framed with harp and rippling marimba that underscores the notion of open spaces and, from thence, to the drone-backed ‘Labouring And Resting’ with Murphy’s ambient score and Polwart’s description of the geese migration from whence comes the album title, the accompaniment capturing the sense of the wind and the sound of wings.

Backed by bass and a circling acoustic guitar psattern, the seven-minute ‘Tyrannic Man’s Dominion’ is a slight melodic reworking of ‘Now Westlin’ Winds’, Robert Burns’ ecological tract about bird shoots with their “slaughtering guns”. Whispering the introduction, backdropped by sanusula chimes, the spoken ‘Place To Rest And Mend’ builds to a military tattoo march beat and wordless chant as she pays tribute to Soutra Hospital, a charitable medieval Augustinian hospital that once stood on the edge of moor and, providing sanctuary and protection, served as a prototype of today’s NHS.

Opening with a sung lyric about motherhood against a single repeated piano note, ‘A Benediction’ gives way to a spoken narrative that describes Roberta watching Will who, in transpires, is carpeting a crib for the impending baby, Another spoken introduction about Roberta discovering a smashed swallow’s nest and the dead or dying fledglings sets the scene for the six-minute plus ‘Small Consolation’, focuses her thoughts on her own upcoming birthing, a meditation on the fragility of life giving way to the revisiting from her 2004’s Faultlines album with its echoes of Sandy Denny.

The sound of a barn owl both gives rise to the title and heralds the musically dramatic, dissonantly percussive ‘White Old Woman Of The Night’ as the contractions begin with lyrics that intermingle with Polwart’s recollections of her own troubled childbirth as it flows in the wheezing drone of medieval ballad ‘Sphagnum Mass For A Dead Queen’ (itself previously on 2007’s Fairest Floo’er as ‘The Death of Queen Jane’) about Jane Seymour’s tragic childbirth with its disorienting Latin chants and list of cures

The glacial 90-second foreshadowing of ‘Lullaby For A Lost Mother’ picks up the medieval notes with harp and birdsong counterpointing the tragedy in the voice of a child recounting the scene around Fara Flow to her departed mother, but then ‘Remember The Geese’ strikes an optimistic, uplifting not as she returns to the opening setting, drawing together and linking the threads of the metaphor and imagery as, in the spoken mid-section she warns of the weather growing darker daily and a fierce wind, reminding that we are “a human skein and we’re not going to make it on our own.”

In ‘Molly Sime’s Welcome To Salter’s Road’ the spoken narrative brings the pregnancy to a bittersweet end with Roberta’s daughter, Molly, born and the image of Will tending his wife only for her to bleed to death, she taken away by her family for burial, he taking an axe to their bed and the back room floor and throwing the wood and bloody linen on a pyre to “let the world burn.” Midway through, the final chapter of the story is interrupted with a revisiting of ‘Salter’s Road’ from 2012’s Traces, its line about the horseman’s only daughter suddenly bringing home that, for those unaware of the background, this isn’t some fiction, but the true story of one of Polwart’s former neighbours as she relates visiting the elderly Molly in hospital, on the last day of her life, with her own son. At once the project’s theme of thread that connects us is brought into heartbreaking focus and the album ends as it began, at dusk, with the moor cock calling and the sound of a heartbeat, its final words the song’s title and the album’s overarching message, ‘We Are All Bog Born’. Quite magnificent.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: www.karinepolwart.com

‘Labouring And Resting’:

KARINE POLWART Announces New Album – A Pocket Of Wind Resistance

Karine Polwart A Pocket Of Wind Resistance
Photo by Sandy Butler.

Karine Polwart – five-time winner of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards – will release her new album A Pocket Of Wind Resistance via Hudson Records on November 17, 2017. Written in collaboration with the Scottish sound designer Pippa Murphy, ‘A Pocket Of Wind Resistance’ is the musical accompaniment to Polwart’s critically acclaimed theatrical debut (“Poignant, unflinching and beautiful” ***** – The Telegraph). The production, which debuted at the Edinburgh Festival in 2016, was written, musically directed and performed by Polwart, winning her the Best Music and Sound Award at the 2017 CATS. Alongside three other nominations, it also placed Polwart on the shortlist for the Best Actor ‘Scottish Oscar’ in the Sunday Herald Culture Awards. In-line with the album’s announcement, Polwart is streaming the first single to emerge from the album, ‘Labouring and Resting’.

For Karine, the ‘Wind Resistance’ project took seed from a close hand view of the annual migration of over two thousand pink-footed geese to Fala Flow, a tiny peat bog close to Polwart’s home just south of Edinburgh. Watching the geese’s constantly shifting skeins – in which the birds take turns to create pockets of wind resistance to aid each other’s flight – prompted Karine to consider the ways in which humans depend upon each other, whether or not we form skeins of our own. The airborne phenomena & its role in Fala Flow’s delicate ecology – explored in beautiful detail by Polwart on ‘Labouring and Resting’ – resonated particularly with Polwart’s own recent experience of becoming a mother and protecting a family of her own.

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Speaking about the album, Karine says;

“It’s a meditation on the ways in which we, as humans, protect and care for one another, and for all life, by stepping up, falling back, labouring and resting in our own fashion. In particular, it’s a hymn to mothers and birthing, to the proffering of sanctuary, to the miracle of medicine, and a reminder, a warning, about the consequences of isolating and forgetting.”

‘A Pocket Of Wind Resistance’ – the follow-up to her 2012 Scottish Album of The Year-nominated ‘Traces’, produced by Chvrches’ Iain Cook – is the latest in a series of collaborative projects from Polwart which combine music and art with science, environment and politics. Following her BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winning 2005 debut ‘Faultlines’, Polwart collaborated on the naturalist-inspired ‘The Darwin Song Project’ in 2009 and last year’s all-female ‘Songs Of Separation’ release with Eliza Carthy, alongside ‘Sea Change’ in 2013, written as a response to climate change. Karine has also collaborated with indie composer RM Hubbert, co-written with members of Portishead for Martin Green’s EIF/Barbican production ‘Flit’, and co-directed and worked on life novelist James Robertson’s ‘Pilgrimer’ production.

Artist Web Link: https://www.karinepolwart.com/