Karine Polwart at Fala Moor

Season 1 Episode 2: Karine was named Folk Singer of the Year at the 2018 Radio 2 Folk Awards. Her solo theatre piece “Wind Resistance” and album “A Pocket of Wind Resistance” were inspired by Fala Moor near her home in Midlothian just south of Edinburgh. She takes Matthew for a walk across the Moor which is a haven for wildlife, particularly birds. As she sings you can hear skylarks and curlews flying around her. Karine tells stories of the people who lived near the moor and the monastic hospital which stood nearby where pioneering herbal treatments were invented. And she reflects on n her own life journey from social worker dealing with survivors of domestic violence to award winning folk singer.

Karine Polwart
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Politics and pop music: Folk singer Karine Polwart celebrates crashing the UK top ten charts

 

Karine Polwart is one of Scotland’s most celebrated folk singers, but it’s her album of famous pop hits ‘Scottish Songbook’ which has finally made it into the UK top ten.

Inspired by Scotland’s political landscape, Polwart has chosen covers with a theme of resiliance and resistance.

From issues like domestic abuse to Scottish independence, the album gives new meaning, she says, to existing songs.

Watch the Interview: Politics and pop music: Folk singer Karine Polwart celebrates crashing the UK top ten charts

Watch the Karine Polwart Trio Perform At The Tiny Desk 

Karine Polwart Trio

Scottish singer, songwriter and essayist Karine Polwart seldom comes stateside. She prefers to limit air travel in order to minimize her carbon footprint. She took exception, however, to fly from Edinburgh to New York City to participate in the Carnegie Hall Migrations festival, a celebration of the history of the movement of people all around the world. Polwart and her brother, guitarist Steven Polwart and multi-instrumentalist, Inge Thomson, then escaped New York for a day to play the Tiny Desk here in Washington, D.C.

Polwart writes songs about hope, music that harnesses spiritual power and lyrics that address important social justice themes. Stories of human emotion and the human experience are also commonplace as in the first tune, “Ophelia.”

Her second song at the desk, “I Burn But I Am Not Consumed,” includes a mesmerizing spoken word denunciation of President Donald Trump, while the closing tune, “King of Birds,” praises the power of small things. In it Polwart recounts the legend of a wren who piggybacks a lift on an eagle’s wing. Just as the large bird is unable to fly any higher in the sky, the tiny wren catches a breath of air, soars higher than the eagle and is crowned the king of all birds.

Lyricism and messages of hope and beauty heard throughout punctuate a stunning accompaniment of inventive instrumentation. The steady, resonant guitar riffs played by Steven Polwart ground the delicate vocal harmonies. Inge Thomson’s accordion lines, combined with an array of percussion instruments and synth-generated effects, add a complimentary layer of sound without overpowering the music. Karine Polwart’s bellowing and drone-like Shruti box provides a sweet serenity.

SET LIST

  • “Ophelia”
  • “I Burn But I Am Not Consumed”
  • “King of Birds”

MUSICIANS

Karine Polwart: vocals, guitar, shruti box; Steven Polwart: guitar, vocals; Inge Thomson: accordion, percussion, noises, vocals

 

Listen at: Video: Watch the Karine Polwart Trio Perform At The Tiny Desk : NPR