on 14 May 2006
This album is entrancing; a beautiful collection of songs. I'd not heard of KP before I heard the last two tracks of this playing over the sound system of the shop that I immediately bought it from, and I agree with the guy who comments that people who don't know anything about 'folk' music would miss this album.
I'm glad I didn't. This is a great album to relax to. Haunting, powerful, meaningful musical poetry.
on 20 April 2006
'I'm gonna pick out the stars and put them in my pocket. I'm gonna bring those stars back down. So I can spread celestial light around.' So sings Karine Polwart on 'I'm Gonna Do It All'. This celestial task she accomplishes before the end of this record, especially with 'Terminal Star'-just about the most beautiful song you could wish to hear. It's one of a pair of songs dedicated to Jane Haining from Scotland who was killed by the Nazis and is now recognised as one of 'Righteous Among the Nations'. The beautiful CD sleeve will tell you more. It can't be easy following such a critically acclaimed album as 'Faultlines' but 'Scribbled in Chalk' makes the task look easy. It is a great album, full of intelligent and beautiful songs, some of which, as on the last album' deal with 'edgy' subjects. 'Daisy' is a brilliant song about the difficulties of bringing up a child in the world today, 'Maybe there's a road' is about sex trafficking. The singing is even better than before, the production is 'spot on'; some tracks enhanced by a beautiful string quartet. Karine Polwart is recognised as one of the UK's best singers but in my view what sets her apart from all the other excellent young singers is the quality of her songwriting. She writes great songs. This is a great album.
on 18 July 2006
This is a truly amazing album which it is difficult to praise too much. Its not going too far to say that it has restored my faith in the writing of contemporary music in this country.
Karine Polwart combines a number of features which rarely come together so beautifully or effectively. The songs on this album are equally original, thoughtful and tuneful and her lyrics really have something to say. With some other artists sometimes the music will let down the words or vice versa. Here both the music and the poetry are equally fabulous.
How refreshing that the album has avoided the trap common to so many contemporary folk artists - of being sanctimonious and "worthy". On the contrary the songs all have a directness of approach and feel "real".
One song though stands out - "Baleerie Baloo" has a haunting melody and a highly poignant lyric. It stays with you for days after you hear it.
Having established her niche in the music scene with 2005's superb "Faultlines", "Scribbled in Chalk" provides Karine Polwart with a more reflective space for her songwriting. The result is an album that's much more serious in tone; it took several listenings for the album as a whole to grow on me. It's worth persevering with, though, as the lyrical depth is astonishing, and the musical arrangements have a sophistication rarely heard on a folk/roots recording.
The opening tracks have a lot in common with "Faultlines": rich catchy melodies, and quirky lyrical content that raises a smile as well as prompting a lot of deep thought. "I'm Gonna Do It All" is jaunty enough for the kids to sing along, and the message of spirited defiance behind the catchy rhymes makes this one of the year's most uplifting songs. "Daisy", ostensibly written to a child, is really a subtle dig at the prejudice and dishonesty that can infuse the grown-ups' world view. "Maybe There's a Road" is one of several songs on the album which sounds like it's telling one tale but which reveals a much more hard-hitting back story on repeated listening. In songs of this sort Karine reveals herself as a folk musician in the truest sense: a chronicler of 21st-century life, a teller of the forgotten stories of the people. Her storytelling is subtle: painting vivid pictures but stopping short of political commentary, allowing the listener to make up their own mind.
The middle section is more patchy. "Don't Know Why" provides one of Karine's sunniest melodies as well as a chance for her to explore the big questions of existence by looking at daisies and clouds. "Holy Moses", by contrast, is a string of philosophical musings so abstract it's hard to grasp the point she's trying to make, and the lullaby-like melody and the Biblical references seem to confuse rather than illuminate. "Where the Smoke Blows" has echoes of the rockier tracks on "Faultlines", sounding a little self-consciously KT Tunstall-esque in places. However, the last three tracks are three of Karine's best ever. The mournful verses of "Baleerie Baloo" and its eerie piano accompaniment quietly tell the story of one of the forgotten martyrs of the Second World War. "Terminal Star" is an entrancing metaphor for more things than you can count, and its subtle, sophisticated production is crying out for release as a chillout track par excellence. And "Follow the Heron" takes us right back to where it all began: a glimpse of childhood, an old Malinky tune with a traditional folk feel, and that exquisite voice, uncluttered by metaphors or complicated accompaniments.
This album definitely needs careful listening to. It's simply not possible to appreciate the depth of tracks like "Hole in the Heart" or "I've Seen It All" the first, or even the fifth time; but equally, it's hard to imagine tiring of "Follow the Heron" or "I'm Gonna Do It All". This "slow burn" quality is possibly the album's greatest strength. Its weakness, if there is one, is that in places it's simply just too earnest. The great joy of "Faultlines" was always that Karine could sing about serious subjects with a combination of refreshing candour and quirky good humour. The songwriting of "Scribbled in Chalk" demands to be taken more seriously - and worthy though the subject matter is, there are times when I wish for just a little bit of the same mirth that infused the first album, and Karine's superb live shows. If "Faultlines" was a breath of fresh air, then "Scribbled in Chalk" is the slowly rumbling storm; heavy going in places, but with flashes of brilliance.
on 14 June 2006
I bought this album on the strength of Faultlines and was not disappointed. Simultaneously haunting and with just a touch of melancholy, all of the songs are beautifully crafted and Karine's voice carries them off perfectly. It's the best combination of contemporary folk and elements of traditional Scottish music. I listen to these on my iPod in the middle of a hot cramped tube carriage and suddenly I'm transported to a glen in the Highlands - absolutely superb!
on 26 June 2006
I rarely use superlatives, but this new album from Karine Polwart shows her writing and musical composition incoprporating and developing the strengths that made "Faultlines" such a compelling collection. The recording and production combine musical traditions and instruments to excellent effect, showcasing a range of beautiful tunes and Karine's voice.
This is music that is aware of its world and the range of human experience and yet is never sanctimonious or miserable despite the sad songs. There is something for everyone here.
Karine Polwart is one of the new wave of Scottish folk artists whose popularity and influence extends well outside of the Scottish border. Think, Roddy Woomble ,the Idlewilder whose album 'my secret is my silence' Karine guested on. King Creosote, James Yorkston, Jackie Leven et al. A powerful force of nature which sees Karine firmly established as an articulate voice within this celtic strand of Nu-Folk .
But is it pure Folk ? Purists might argue that Karine's wide ranging songs have a very strong country influence, albeit of the Caledonian hue. But isn't country and folk all part of the same roots bag ?
Whatever....the Polwart voice is sweet and true and her musicians provide sharp, crisp backing creating a most engaging end product.
Feted in the folk world for her imaginative lyrics and 'right on' approach to worldly matters, Karine with 'Scribbled' carries on from the award winning 'Faultlines' with something even better.
A disc for all seasons.
on 14 September 2010
I first heard a track from KP on radio where a guest was asked what she was listening to currently and she asked for a song from KPs third album. I was so impressed that I bought 'This earthly spell' and I really enjoyed it.
Some time later after hearing KP performing live with the Burns Unit (a collaboration with other singer, song writer musicians )I bought this album. I can honestly say that although I am not a folkie, this is one of the most enjoyable albums that I have ever bought. Great songs, well sung, in the artiste's native accent.
I like to think that my tastes in music are quite catholic but I do have a soft spot for good singer songwriters and in my opinion KP is as good as anyone else out there today. Her songs have an honesty and directness that suggests that she does not write to attain commercial success but because she believes in what she is saying.
If you like female singer songwriters then give it a try, you won't be disappointed.