truth is a story scribbled in chalk, just an hour before the flood
February 19, 2008 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Having worked as a philosophy teacher in a Scottish primary school and a domestic and child abuse worker with Scottish Women's Aid, perhaps it comes as little surprise that Karine Polwart's music often dwells on the darker side of life.

After a stint in the long-running Battlefield Band and then as a member of Scot-folk group Malinky, Polwart is now a solo artist with three albums and four BBC Folk Awards to her name - and a penchant for writing songs which explore the more painful side of human experience. In this interview for the BBC's Scotland's Music series, she plays 'Fire Thief', a song which sets the words of a dying AIDS victim's mother to an old ballad form (zipped mp3 here). You Can't Weld A Body (mp3 again) is a salute to the dockworkers of Scotland, and the terrible injuries they risked in building the ships which made them famous, while Azalea Flower (clip here) is a chilling first-person narration of a suburban murder, and Waterlily is a lament for a BBC journalist in Bosnia during the Balkan War, who fell in love with a Sarajevan woman and went back to Britain to obtain a visa for her - only to find on returning to Sarajevo that she had been shot and killed by Serbian troops. Here (1, 2) Karine discusses some of the songs on her second album Scribbled In Chalk, including 'Daisy', a cautionary tale warning children of the dangers of naïveté - and the lullaby 'Baleerie Baloo', which tells the story of Jane Haining, a Scottish missionary to Hungary who was tried for espionage and sent to death at Auschwitz after being observed crying while sewing Stars of David onto the clothes of the orphans she taught.
posted by aihal (9 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
More links:
Karine's MySpace, blog, preview tracks and all
Last FM page, including full-track previews of Karine's latest trad-folk album The Fairest Floo'er
Interview and set for the Iain Anderson Show (BBC Scotland, Real/WMP)
Karine singing Ewan MacColl's Moving On Song with his sons Neil and Calum and Chris Wood
Acapella performance of Whaur Dae Ye Lie at the 2007 Otley Festival
posted by aihal at 5:10 PM on February 19, 2008

This is good.
posted by The White Hat at 5:48 PM on February 19, 2008

Holy Cow:

Philosophy?...In Primary (as in 6th grade and below type) school?

Let me be the first to say...

I for one welcome our well educated, brogueful, kilt-wearing overlords.
posted by timsteil at 5:56 PM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge fan of her work, and thanks for this post so I now know she has some new stuff I haven't heard yet!

However, I must admonish you for failing to mention the duo album she did with Gill Bowman, under the name MacAlias (looks like it's no longer available, alas). There is some really amazingly good music there, it is not to be missed if you are at all into Karine Polwart. Among other tracks, they turn some Robert Burns poems into songs and it's just lovely (The Gowden Locks of Anna is my favorite of these).

And of course there is the masterful John C Clarke, the song which immediately made me want to go out and buy the cd, and whose description of a simple but sweet love affair with a gas installer is what led me on the course to realize that I had to leave my daughter's father seven years ago. Basically, I realized I wanted something like what was in the song (and I deserved such happiness, and it wasn't too much to ask from life), and that I'd never get it with that abusive asshole.
posted by marble at 6:19 PM on February 19, 2008

Karine Polwart's music often dwells on the darker side of life

That's where so much of the good material resides!

Thanks for the post, I hadn't heard of this woman.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:53 PM on February 19, 2008

Great post. Thanks.
posted by Lezzles at 1:22 AM on February 20, 2008

She's wonderful, thanks for the post. If you like the simplicity of her stuff it's worth looking for stuff by fellow Scot folker Kris Drever and the band he's in Lau. It's not all as dark, though he has his moments.
posted by patricio at 3:17 AM on February 20, 2008

timstriel, it's not common, but it does happen. Should happen more if you ask me.
posted by Helga-woo at 3:27 AM on February 20, 2008

I saw her live at the Towersey Folk Festival a few years ago and she was ace. Bought an album and was a touch disappointed, but mostly because she'd been so brilliant on stage and it didn't carry across. But I must explore more of her stuff. Thanks for the links.
posted by penguin pie at 6:54 AM on February 21, 2008

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