Songwriter Karine Polwart presents a special seven-piece live line-up at Innerleithen Memorial Hall on Thursday, November 29, following glowing reviews for her brand new album Traces.
Since she launched her first solo album Faultlines in 2004, Karine has gone on to win multiple BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and established a reputation as an adept musical collaborator with the likes of Scots-Canadian ensemble The Burns Unit (with King Creosote and Emma Pollock), folk experimentalists Lau and Roddy Woomble.
Harnessing some of the filmic sweep of her new songs, Karine performs here with regular bandmates Steven Polwart (guitars & vocals) and Inge Thomson (accordion, percussion & vocals) alongside special guests Leila Dunn (clarinet/vocals), Sarah Hayes of Admiral Fallow (flute/vocals), Iain Sandilands (vibraphone, percussion) and Graeme Smillie of Olympic Swimmers/Unwinding Hours (keys/piano).
“Karine draws from folk music’s long tradition while keeping pace with the ceaselessly changing times,” her website explains. “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 voices, drawing the listener towards her in the same way one might lean towards a late night tale by the fireside.
“Her songs deal with humanity in all its many guises: there is tenderness, triumph and sorrow, raised flags of rebellion and independence, flashes of anger at power abused and misused. Perhaps most frequently she deals in spare, unsentimental empathy, often with those who have been dealt the least playable hands in the game of life.”
Having gained a first-class degree in politics and philosophy at Dundee University, a masters in philosophical inquiry from Glasgow, and later working in the area of women’s and children’s rights, Polwart has always wanted her music to perform some useful social function.
“For me,” says Polwart, “music is one of the most powerful ways of making sense of the world. It’s for celebrating, grieving, sharing, wondering. Nothing inspires me more than the realisation that any one of my songs means something to someone else.”
Her first job after her studies was as a philosophy tutor in a primary school, a job she describes as giving her a “massive buzz”. After this she spent six years working for the Scottish Women’s Aid movement on issues such as domestic and child abuse and young people’s rights and these experiences have influenced her songwriting.
Her debut album Faultlines won the Best Album award at the 2005 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, along with two others at the same ceremony, and increased Polwart’s profile not just in the folk community, but also in the wider musical arena.
Her fifth album Traces includes tracks inspired by the Occupy London protests (“King of Birds”) and Donald Trump’s controversial golf course development in Aberdeenshire (“Cover Your Eyes”).
Doors open at 7pm, and tickets cost £15 (plus booking fee in advance), available from Scotlight in Innerleithen, the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles, Ticketmaster and Tickets Scotland.