Karine Polwart - Scribbled in Chalk

Scribbled In Chalk
Shoeshine Records SPIT028

An outstanding and captivating album, 'Scribbled In Chalk' demonstrates how Karine's creativity has flourished since she cut her teeth on previous collaborations.  Her early Malinky songs in particular, including the Shetland-inspired 'Follow The Heron' (reprieved here in a sensitive reworking) revealed her songwriting talent years ago. Her postgraduate career as an anti-violence campaigner continues to inspire, just as it did on debut solo release 'Faultlines'.

'Scribbled In Chalk', like its predecessor, has undeniable crossover potential; given the right push, it will reach people who simply love brilliantly written, beautifully sung, rootsy music. Karine's fabulous tunes are crammed with catchy hooks and reveal wide-ranging musical influences. Produced by Mattie Foulds, the recording captures the ample talents of the main band line up of Karine, Mattie, Kevin McGuire, Steven Polwart, and Inge Thomson. Fine contributions too from Corrina Hewat, David Milligan, Martin Green, Kerry Polwart, and beautifully emotive strings from Mr McFall's Chamber. The album artwork cannot go uncommented - Sarah Roberts' striking illustrations capture the very essence of these songs.

Behind Karine's beautiful, sometimes fragile-sounding vocal lie songs of depth, often lyrically bleak, but always captivating and thought provoking. The political songs deliver their 'punch' so gently and so circumspectly that her targets probably wouldn't even notice. The melodic, catchy flow of road-song 'Maybe There's A Road' hides a completely non-judgmental lyric about a prostitute's life. 'Daisy (There Are People.)' and 'Holy Moses' are gorgeous songs, one warning an innocent child to remember that 'there are people in this world who don't think like you do', the other reminding you that you sometimes have to swim against the flow in this life.  There is much to say about every song on this album.

Two very beautiful songs are dedicated to the inspirational memory of Scots missionary Jane Haining, who ran an orphanage for Jewish children in Budapest in the 1930s. She lost her life at Auschwitz, along with many of her charges. 'Baleerie Baloo', lullaby-like, encapsulates Jane Haining's life beautifully as it describes the act of her crying whilst sewing the Star of David onto the childrens' clothing. 'Terminal Star', ostensibly about the wonder of the universe, vividly reawakens images of Haining's suffering and self-sacrifice.

This is superlative, imaginative songwriting; Karine Polwart is now a major Scottish singer-songwriting force.

Debbie Koritsas

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The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 68 of The Living Tradition magazine.