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This Earthly Spell CD

Price: £13.22 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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£13.22 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details Only 5 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

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Image of album by Karine Polwart


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Karine Polwart draws from folk music’s long tradition while keeping pace with the ceaselessly changing times. Her talent for crafting unique, enduring melodies, her gift for saying just enough without overstating her case, the range and dynamism of her arrangements, all come together in songs of powerful contemporary relevance. She also has the purest and most approachable of singing ... Read more in Amazon's Karine Polwart Store

Visit Amazon's Karine Polwart Store
for 7 albums, 11 photos, discussions, and more.

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Product details

  • Audio CD (10 Mar. 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Hegri Music
  • ASIN: B0013BKUOQ
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 57,204 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. The Good Years
2. Sorry
3. Better Things
4. Rivers Run
5. Painted It White
6. Firethief
7. Behind Our
8. Eyes
9. The News
10. Sorrowlessfield
11. Tongue That Cannot Lie

Product Description

Product Description

The chiming opening track, a gorgeous vocal setting of a lyric by eminent Scots poet Edwin Morgan, gives way to the steely, swampy "Sorry", whilst the delightful jazz inflected whimsy of "The News" contrasts the anti-nuclear political bite of "Better Things" and the incisive "Painted It White". Unsurprisingly, for a new mum, three songs deal with motherhood. The poignant understatement of "Firethief", which Polwart wrote originally for HIV/AIDS documentary "The Enemy That Lives Within", one of BBC Radio 2's Radio Ballads, unravels a mother's loss; whilst she wrote the tender and delicate "Rivers Run" for her own son. But it's the eerie and atmospheric parable "Tongue That Cannot Lie" that, most of all, betrays Polwart's background as a former philosophy teacher, and her ongoing fascination with moral ambivalence. Inspired by the supernatural legend surrounding thirteenth century Scottish Borders poet and prophet Thomas The Rhymer, it also distinguishes her as an ambitious and captivating storyteller.

BBC Review

As well as giving birth to her first child, philosophy graduate and folk chanteuse Karine Polwart has somehow found time over the past year to record two new albums, December's traditional Scottish collection, Fairest Floo'er, and now the self-composed This Earthly Spell. Only a full-time musician since the age of 29, Polwart's debut release, Faultlines, won the best album award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and since then her simple but evocative style, featuring some stark, often harrowing lyrics inspired both by the history of her native land and her years working for Scottish Women's Aid, have established the Borders-based singer as one of her genre's most respected contemporary exponents.

This Earthly Spell reinforces some of the core elements that forged Polwart's reputation, but does not really deliver much of a punch. Typical tracks like Better Things and Rivers Run carry on the tradition of recently rediscovered female folk greats like Anne Briggs with their prettily meandering acoustic guitar lines and crystal clear vocals, but are little more than proficient and pleasant. Opening number, The Good Years, has the kind of hymnal but slightly saccharine chorus omnipresent in modern country, while The News's pallid jazz evokes unwelcome memories of Fairground Attraction.

It's only on Firethief, a poignant lament to a young man stricken by AIDS, that Polwart really lives up to her reputation as a songwriter of true stature. The hauntingly insistent guitar line and some coruscating imagery combine with powerful effect to describe a mother's ''bonnie laddie'' withering away to become ''a rickle of skin and bone'' - evidence of a captivating storyteller that is rarely apparent elsewhere on This Earthly Spell.

The album closes with the eight minutes plus of Tongue That Cannot Lie, a ponderous elegy to the thirteenth century poet and prophet, Thomas The Rhymer. This medieval sage was no doubt a most intriguing individual, but Polwart is a much more interesting and accessible artist when writing about the struggles of the living. --Chris White

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mr. R. R. Henderson on 6 April 2008
Format: Audio CD
I only really heard Karine's work for the first time when "Scribbled in Chalk" came out. I listened to the previews of the new album on her myspace page and almost fell off my chair. "Firethief" is powerful and moving especially given the subject matter, "The Good Years" uplifting with it's wonderful melody and vocal harmony and "Sorry" is just too good for words. Actually, there's not a bad song on this. Karine's voice is just perfect, the playing is impeccable, the lyrics are profound and the whole thing made me smile and cry at the same time. I haven't stopped playing it since I bought it. I've already told anyone who will listen that they should buy this album and reward real talent. I'm going to see her in Edinburgh next Sunday and can't wait. Am I gushing? Probably. There's much that is naff about Scottish music but this, currently, is about as good as it gets.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Claire Mcghee on 31 Mar. 2008
Format: Audio CD
For some songwriters, the re-positioning of priorities that new parenthood brings seems to turn their writing ability to mush overnight. Thankfully, it seems to have had the opposite effect on Karine Polwart. Many of the old concerns are aired again in the songs on This Earthly Spell - anger at the perfidy of our political leaders, the state of the world and the mess being made of it by those who should know better (for those who seem to think Karine has suddenly started writing 'protest songs', have you not been listening over the last few years?). Songs of life, love, fear, beauty and hope are all to be found here.

The band have really matured as a unit over the last couple of years, and the arrangements are varied and rich without being too fussy. I also think Karine's voice has matured, and she sings with greater confidence than ever before. I do have one reservation - I don't think the musical style of 'The News' works. It's one of the good things about Karine and her band that they are not afraid to try working in different musical styles - unlike some reviewers, I don't see this as some kind of betrayal of their trad roots but as a development of a very individual talent - but in the case of this one song I don't think the style works with Karine's voice. Then again, if you don't try something new, how will you know if it works or not? And it may just be me that doesn't like it!

That one small weakness does not lose this album any stars for me, as the whole is incredibly good. Karine is a master of using songs to draw out of you an emotional response that forces you to think about the issues that make her angry, sad, frustrated or joyful.

Buy this album if you listen with your head and your heart, as well as your lugs.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Paul Mullins on 10 Mar. 2008
Format: Audio CD
Karine didn't have a tricky second album. "Scribbled in Chalk" managed to eclipse the impact of her debut solo album "Faultlines", and "Fairest Floor" followed that with equal aplomb, so surely "This Earthly Spell" will finally be a passing work, a mediocrity, proof that no artist can be that consistent. No. Not a bit. Here are 10 songs that would shame any first album with its treasure trove of long saved songs, that both hold together in their totality and yet offer everything from political vitriol to maternal love. A number of songs have had airings on You-Tube as rough recordings but now shine all the brighter for the airy backing vocals of Inge Thomson or the clever rhythms of messers Foulds & McGuire and the ever creative and tasty, tasty perfect simplicity of brother Steven.

This is real, visceral, potent, charming, intimate and profoundly beautiful song writing delivered by an Artist and band of genuine talent and ability which will push every emotional and cerebral button and leave you oddly comforted in it's very existence.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. P. Duffy VINE VOICE on 20 Mar. 2008
Format: Audio CD
Two albums from Karine in one year - what more can anyone ask for! I was so pleased to see Firethief included on this album as I absolutely adored this song when I heard it on the radio ballads, it's worth buying the album for alone. It's fantastic to see such a 'modern' issue being tackled in a song adhering to the conventions of traditional music but with a modern edge. I particularly like the way this rather melancholic song blends seemlessly into Behind Our Eyes, a song of restrained hope. These two comprise the heart of the entire album for me.

There is only one song that I'm not keen on from this collection & that's The News. The opening melody reminds me of The Chordettes 'Mr Sandman', which is a bit jarring after Behind Our Eyes. Other than that small gripe, this album shows that Karine really has got a fine talent for producing meaningful, well crafted & perfectly executed albums that not only have great stand-alone songs but that come together to form a cohesive whole.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter Durward Harris #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 28 Jun. 2014
Format: Audio CD
Karine hails from the Scottish borders region, which has a long history of Anglo-Scottish battles, and that is partly reflected in the music. Karine's accent also reflects the region - it is clearly a Scottish accent with those rolled r's, but is not a particularly strong accent due to the geographical location. While I have no objection to a stronger Scottish accent, it probably helps Karine to have the accent she does - clearly Scottish, but easily understandable to listeners from outside Scotland who aren't as familiar with Scottish accents as I am.

Karine was relatively new to motherhood at the time she recorded this album, and this is also reflected in some of the songs, particularly Rivers run.

While I don't necessarily agree with Karine's views on some issues, I have never allowed such matters to get in the way of my enjoyment of a singer's music. I have enjoyed hearing political music by Pete Seeger and Ry Cooder (both of those on the political left) and by Ray Stevens (on the political right) and all of those had plenty of political songs. Karine's album is not devoted to politics - just one or two songs have a political edge (particularly Better things, in which Karine suggests that there must be better things to spend money on than Trident missiles) - but if you don't like politics mixed in with music, you might want to avoid this.

Assuming I have not put you off, I believe on the basis of this album, my first of Karine's, that Karine is an outstanding singer of her brand of folk music, which is clearly influenced by other genres (there is a slightly pop feel to the album) but firmly rooted in tradition.

This is my first Karine Polwart album but I don't expect it to be my last.
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