Caught by the River

Laws Of Motion

6th November 2018

Cally Callomon casts his ears over Karine Polwart’s ‘Laws Of Motion’, out now on Hudson Records

Those lucky enough to have caught Karine Polwart’s previous album A Pocket Of Wind Resistance (2017) may well have felt a degree of apprehension, wondering if she could top that epic with ‘just a collection of songs’ as her follow up. Rest easy, this is anything but.

There are similarities to vintage Roy Harper, here, in her story-telling, copious notes and confidence in the spoken word. Many will compare her to Joni (no surname required) and this is understandable, yet there’s so much more.

Polwart is generous in her crediting and billing of those that contribute to her releases, this one co-credited to her brother Steven and the outstanding Inge Thomson. This confidence in billing is reflected in the magnificent unbridled arrangements and parts played by her more than able deputies. Much like Miles Davis, she is content to let the others shine, and her music (as it is always hers) is allowed to blossom in ways never restricted by fear and ego.

Reassuringly there are still many bird motifs on this album. Like the geese on the last, they flutter in and out of the songs, Polwart submitting to their songs of praise.

For many, that Mr Trump is an easy target; yet his special armour seemingly deflects all but a few blows. Adolf was only ever hurt by ridicule and just as his Adolf Hitlist (the names he wished to exterminate upon invading Britain) contained the names of many a comedian who had parodied the führer, Polwart adds her name to Trump’s list alongside Jeb Loy Nichols. Readers of Caught by the River may have appreciated Jeb’s powerfully aimed 2017 prose that requires constant revisits, like here and now.

On the track ‘I Am Burned But Not Consumed’, Polwart gives us all hope in these dark days, and firmly introduces a context to Trump’s ‘power’, reducing his reign to rust. Polwart is a conscientious singer, yes, but a conscious one as well, always awake, receptors set to ‘sensitive’ resulting in insight with a wry smile.

Production, by Stuart Hamilton, comes out of Pencaitland’s Castlesound Studios (as many will recognise) – the sound confident, clear as a bell, as if the songs have been played in for many years. Scotland may once have been the home to cod-soulbands and showband copyists, but no more. North of the wall now come songs of confidence and singularity, from the highlands, lowlands and isles, independent of all showbiz, you’ll miss out at your peril.

Many may choose to stream-to-taste, but to miss out on the beautifully designed sleeve with comprehensive notes is to hear but half of it. Hudson continue to release keepsake CDs with the purchaser in mind.