New album Scribbled In Chalk Released April 10 2006 on Spit & Polish
Karine Polwart's songs are not the introspective stuff you might expect from a female singer- songwriter steeped in the folk-roots scene. Stirlingshire-born, Karine is a unique artist, producing striking lyrical observations on people and our place in the world. Musically she is influenced as much by guitar pop hooks, indie rock and alt. country as she is by folk and traditional music.
Like its predecessor "Faultlines", for which Karine won Best Album, Best Original Song and the Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2005, "Scribbled in Chalk" balances despair with hope and wit with wisdom. The brooding bluesy Hole in the Heart, draped in dark, discordant strings, captures the uncertainty of a world in which "truth is a story scribbled in chalk just an hour before the flood"; a thread she develops in the tender address to a child Daisy: There Are People in This World Who Don't Think Like You Do and in the unsettling filmic imagery of It All Comes Undone.
Karine's previous work experience as an anti-violence and children's rights campaigner reveals itself in some of the bleakest material on the album. Sex trafficking provides the premise for the deceptively jaunty trucking song Maybe There's A Road whilst the sombre lullaby Baleerie commemorates Scots missionary Jane Haining, who lost her life in Auschwitz along with many of the children from the Jewish orphanage she ran in 1930s Budapest. These are tricky subject matters but Karine avoids mawkishness, conveying instead the quiet dignity and determination of the people at the heart of her songs.
The lullaby theme recurs rather more hopefully in the bell-like hypnotic Holy Moses with its gentle invocation to question what's given and swim upstream if you have to, a consistent philosophical outlook echoed in the driving Where the Smoke Blows and its triumph over "the men with enormous heads and tiny hearts".
There is sheer joy in the languid sing-along I'm Gonna Do It All with its promise to "spread celestial light around" and again in Karine's ode to moving slowly through the world in Let It All Hang Out. The wistful sky gazing of Don't Know Why compliments Terminal Star's wide-eyed wonderment at the universe. And the far northern spirit of Follow the Heron draws the album to a graceful, contemplative close
Accompanying first single release I'm Gonna Do It All, is Karine's live show favourite John C Clark (The Gasman Song) which betrays a gift for wry humour with its promise of workaday love and Italian dessert.
Karine is an artist who understands both the best and the worst that the world has to offer. By telling stories, painting pictures and posing questions, she succeeds in her aim to communicate profoundly personal and quietly political messages without posturing and with plenty of room for individual interpretation. Karine sums up:
"The thing I love most of all about writing songs is the meanings they take on for people who hear them. More than anything else I want to move people or make them think. And I'm really humbled by the stories they tell me about their lives and experiences as a result."
Musically, the album has an acoustic heart shaped by the four musicians with whom Karine performs live. Younger brother Steven backs her up on guitars and vocals whilst partner Mattie Foulds supplies drums and percussion (and album production). Inge Thomson adds quirky piano accordion and lilting harmony vocals. Kevin McGuire adds vocals too, whilst underpinning everything with resonant double bass. They create the spacious sound of musicians completely at ease with each other.
This core band sound is augmented by harp flourishes, chiming Wurlitzer and a myriad assortment of odd and sympathetic noises (melodica, Moog, glockenspiel, the guts of a piano) all brought to a shimmer and shine by the sinuous string quartet arrangements of Greg Lawson as played by Mr McFall's Chamber.
Increasingly in demand for collaborative projects, Karine is set to co-write and record with Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble for his forthcoming solo album, and she and her band will soon feature alongside Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub and Sons and Daughters among others on a Woomble-led recording of Scottish poems set to music. She also appears on the latest release by the Glasgow indie music collective Future Pilot AKA.
A PRS Foundation Atom Award allowed Karine to hook up with Nashville based Cape Breton songwriter/producer Gordie Sampson, following on from her recent showcase at the North American Folk Alliance in Austin, Texas.
Karine's sensitive handling of difficult subject matters has enabled her to create a clutch of powerful new songs for BBC Radio 2's "Radio Ballads" music documentary series (insert broadcast dates - Smooth Ops have these). Her writing on the theme of HIV and AIDS in particular displays a distinctive mastery of empathetic, economical and timeless songwriting.
'Scribbled In Chalk' is licensed by Hegri Music to Spit & Polish.
REVIEWS OF "FAULTLINES"
"an effortless sounding gem" (UNCUT)
"melodic and literate songs, her wealth of experience has given her writing a satisfying depth and rounded wisdom" (THE TIMES)
"exceptional songwriting" (SONGLINES)
"a songwriter of rare power ... her penetrating, understated brilliance with words and melody can give a single line of velvet-voiced metaphor the ability to raise neck hairs" (MOJO)
KARINE POLWART LIVE
Tuesday 9 Wolverhampton Robin 2
Wednesday 10 Bedford The Shed
Thursday 11 Brighton Komedia
Saturday 13 Winchester Guildhall
Wednesday 17 Dartford Mick Jagger Centre
Thursday 18 Bournemouth Barrington Theatre
Friday 19 Swindon Arts Centre
Tuesday 23 London Bloomsbury Theatre
Friday 26 Birkenhead Pacific Road Arts Centre
Saturday 27 Chester Folk Festival
Tuesday 30 Cardigan, Theatre Mwldan
Wednesday 31 Swansea, Pontadarwe Arts Centre
Friday 2 Dublin, Whelans (TBC)
Sun 3 Walkerburn (TBC)
Tuesday 6 Dunfermline Carnegie Hall
Wednesday 7 Aberdeen Lemon Tree
Friday 9 Inverness Hootenanny
Saturday 10 Edinburgh Queens Hall
Sunday 11 Glasgow Oran Mor
Thursday 15 Loughbourgh Town Hall
Friday 16 Birmingham Sounds In The Round
Saturday Middlewich Folk Festival (solo)
Friday 30 St Albans Maltings Arts Centre
Saturday 1 Tunbridge Wells Trinity Arts Centre
Friday 21 South Petherton Arts Centre
Saturday 22 Trowbridge Pump Festival
Friday 28 Saddleworth The Railway Inn