Album Review: Karine Polwart – Traces

Having been distinguishing herself within the music industry for more than a decade now, both as a solo artist and part as various folk/acoustic collectives, Karine Polwart has once again proven her immense talent with her 2012 release, Traces.

From the first few seconds of opening track Cover Your Eyes it becomes unarguably apparent that the star of this album will be the powerful, intrinsic beauty stored in Polwart’s vocals.  Her voice carries the listeners off through every song allowing them to rise and fall with each chord and never letting them touch the ground.  Her soft tones, somewhere between a sea shanty and a fairy tale, are so enticing and enchanting that it feels they could be capable of anything at all.  Her songs themselves are written with all the care and attention you could wish for; rich and deep yet charmingly simple, they are songs that burrow themselves into your mind, cropping up like molehills.

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As beautiful as her voice is however, her songs are all quietly complimented with a vast array of instruments, from the likes of the humble glockenspiel to the more distinctive shruti-box.  Perhaps most noticeable however is Inge Thomson’s piano accordion which flows throughout several of the songs, often defining the difference between the nautical and the fable in Polwart’s voice – Sticks ‘n’ Stones being one of the most beautifully composed songs for this.  Other songs such as Salters Road and Don’t Worry carry in them a slightly more old-fashioned sound as well as a soothing, uplifting glimpse of human nature; the kind of songs that barely even deal in music anymore, they deal only in imagery.

Each song on the album is needless to say, perfectly crafted.  Not a word is out of place, and not an instrument superfluous to the tightly spun tunes.  Just a variety of smooth flowing melodies enhanced by the gentle lilt of Polwart’s powerful lullaby voice.  The careful, commanding lyrics are etched so deeply into the edge of your mind that it goes beyond being a CD to listen to, it’s a music you can feel.

You can find out more information about Karine Polwart and purchase her CDs on her website http://www.karinepolwart.com/

Review by Joe Knipe