Scotland's music: Karine Polwart
Scotland: it is a country whose people hold both poetic voice and pragmatism, straightforward speaking and lyricism. Karine Polwart is an artist who embodies each of those qualities in the words and melodies she creates, and in the way she draws on folk song tradition while often speaking to contemporary issues such as AIDS, social justice, and ecology.
Her album Traces, at this writing up for several awards in Scotland and the UK holds each of these elements. Polwart is a firm believer in the idea that a song should stand on its own as it is heard, making its own impact regardless of back story. Her songs on Traces and across her career, live up to that standard.
That said, you may like to know that the song Cover Your Eyes was inspired by her thinking about the changes, both in nature and in community, resulting from the Trump International Golf Links in northeastern Scotland. Neither polemic nor protest song, it offers images from memory and nature in a way that might almost suggest the calling forth an ancient spell. KIng of Birds brings in the architecture of Saint Paul’s in London, the flow of history, and the idea of change.
You may also like to know that Polwart has academic background in the study and teaching of philosophy, and as a social worker. She’s been interested in music since she was growing up Stirlingshire, and when she decide to return to that calling, she was a member of Malinky and the Battlefield Band before setting out on her solo career. She releases her albums on her own Hegri label (hegri is the word in Gaelic for heron, Polwart’s favorite bird and one about which she’s written an inspiring song weaving images of nature with ideas of resilence and change) and now her work will be available in North America through W2. She’s the first artist on that label, a project of Canada’s well respected Borealis Records. You’ve met the work of many Borealis artists here along the music road before, among them Stan Rogers and The Once.
In honor of this partnership, in addition to Traces Borealis has released Threshold, an album containing eleven tracks from across Polwart’s recordings, a gathering which includes her own writings and covers of traditional songs. Follow the Heron is there, along with the Dowie Dens of Yarrow, Rivers Run, Medusa, and a live performance of Terminal Star.