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The Fairest Floo'er CD

4.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (10 Dec. 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Hegri Music
  • ASIN: B000Y5VIJI
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,664 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product description

Product Description

Karine Polwart's third solo album is a dark and intimate affair, which marks a quiet public return to traditional Scots song for the award winning singer-songwriter. This is where her musical career began almost a decade ago, as a member of folk groups Malinky and, subsequently, Battlefield Band. And, in private, the songs have never lost their power. The pared down arrangements of ballads and love songs on this album feature little else than sparse piano or guitar accompaniment, with the odd daub of atmospheric colour. Instead, the performances showcase Karine's warm and earthy vocals and assured storytelling.


2007 was a fruitful year for the Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart. As well as her first child, born in June, she has also delivered two new albums, including a third collection of original songs, titled This Earthly Spell, due out in March 2008 [and reviewed in the next issue]. Fairest Floo'er, meanwhile, finds Polwart touching base with the traditional material that prevailed in her early repertoire, before the closing track gives us a taste of the spring release. It's a spellbinding return to her roots, highlighting the eloquent interpretative gifts that have always gone hand-in-hand with Polwart's songwriting - itself richly informed by the narrative and poetic potency of traditional songs.
This is vividly to the fore on Fairest Floo'er, which takes its title from a line describing the dead lover mourned in the opening track, the classic Borders ballad `Dowie Dens of Yarrow'. This sets the album's largely melancholy mood and its stripped-down, spacious arrangements, with Polwart's clear, bittersweet, exquisitely nuanced voice here accompanied solely by Kim Edgar's sensitive piano chords. Other songs feature Polwart's guitarist brother Stephen - whose elegant, classical-style fingerwork brilliantly enhances the sombrely measured plaint of Robert Burns's `Mirk, Mirk Is This Midnight Hour' - while a truly heartrending account of `The Death of Queen Jane' unfolds in all its stark, anguished intensity over the slowly building drone of an Indian shruti box. Polwart's meticulous attention to phrasing, rhythm and diction, allied to her vibrant emotional empathy with the material, at once captures all the timeless resonance of such songs, while rendering them magically !
Sue Wilson -- Songlines magazine, March 2008 (#50)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I always thought Karine would go places - ever since hearing her singing as part of Malinky I was struck by her ability not only to sing but to convey the emotion of the song in such a way that you feel you are woven into the tapestry of events within the piece, and that's a rare talent. The stand out piece for me from her time with Malinky was Marriane, which exhuded defiance in the face of betrayal, and on this album for me it's Dowie Dens of Yarrow, which has long been one of my favourite ballads, and Mirk Mirk Is This Midnight Hour.

The sripped down tone of the album is in great contrast to her other solo work, and shows another side to this singer. Interpreting traditional music and making it seem relevant to a modern audience is a great challenge, one achieved by very few (Sandy Denny & June Tabor being two of my other favourites, albeit for very different reasons). Karine also seems to shine in the spaces left by the intentionally simple & sparse, yet inspired, musical arrangement that frames the songs, allowing the listener to concentrate upon the stories told & to be drawn into the events & experiences evoked within the song.

There is real talent here, and I am left eagerly awaiting not only the next album of her own music (especially after the delights of Scribbled In Chalk - Terminal Star was a stunning piece of lyrical genius), but also hoping that perhaps in the years to come we might see her again take up the challenge of interpreting songs from our rich heritage of traditional song.
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By P. Edwards TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 30 Dec. 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If it's big arrangements, with a big band sound, plenty of harmonies and a driving drum beat in the background, then this is simply not for you.
In her third solo album, Karine gets right back to her roots, singing some wonderful arrangements of classic Scottish poetry.
Simple but powerful arrangements permit you to focus on what must be one of the finest voices found on the folk scene at the moment.
Two tracks deserve special attention. The Death of Queen Jane tells the story of Henry VIII's sad but botched attempt at undertaking a cesarean section. If you find yourself puzzling over the nature of the accompanying instrument :- border pipes? Hurdey gurdey? ....I'll put you out of your misery. It's actually a Shruti box:- one of those small hand pumped organ thingies normally found in Hindu or Sikh temples.
The bonus track, "Can't weld a body" takes us back to that sad time in history where the Iron Lady proved that she was indeed 'not for turning' way down in the South Atlantic.
This is finest single malt music.
Pour yourself a shot.
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Format: Audio CD
I bought this on the back of her album Scribbled in Chalk and I have to say that after the first listen I was wondering what I'd bought but I persevered and now this is up there with the best. I even have my two very young sons singing the Dowie Dens in the car and around the house. I explained that one to them but drew the line at Queen Jane. Such a sumptuous beauty in the girls voice and a real achievement to convey the stories held within old poems and the dialect that goes with them. Each day a new track sticks out and I find myself grieving with the mother of the three sons with the grass at their head and the clay at their feet one day and the next my sympathies are with King Henry and as for the girls brother in the Dowie Dens well I just want to sort him out.

Will Ye Go To Flanders? sticks with me at the moment. Strong youthful Scotsmen heading off for an adventure and then wiped out in to the sound of the bloody cannon. Haunting stuff.

Recommend this?? Yes I do but if you choose to buy this then I suggest you give it time to grow on you. Listen to the stories told and you will undoubtedly be captivated by Karines melodious unique vocals.
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Format: Audio CD
I'm not really a fan of old ballads but bought this album on the strength of Karine's other (original) work, which I really enjoy. I'm really glad I did. Clearly a lot of care and thought has gone into crafting modern, fresh, arrangements of these old songs, all of which were unfamiliar to me from before. Despite being a pretty diverse bunch of songs all of these new arrangements are totally successful and really convey the emotion and story behind them to the modern ear.

What is particularly striking is the pared back style of the accompanying music which really allows Karine's expressive voice to flourish. All of the tracks on the album have something going for them but there are three that particularly stand out for me, the first "the Dowie Dens of Yarrow", "the Learig" and "the Death of Queen Jane". The Dowie Dens tells a typical ballad-type story of young lovers tragically separated by a meddling family, but the arrangement is so well put together and Karine's singing and expression so varied that I think this is probably my favourite track. The Learig stands out because it sounds to me so fresh (apart from the old Scots of course) it could have been written yesterday. The Death of Queen Jane actually tells a pretty gruesome and sad story but is sung in a style so pure and innocent that I didn't realise what the song was really about until I'd heard it a few times.

An exquisite and unusual addition to any CD collection - I can strongly reccommend it.
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