Album Review: Karine Polwart – Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook

Each and every time that I come across the elegant Scottish lilt of Karine Polwart I fall in love with it all over again. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a day or a month since I last heard it; the result is always the same. As her beautiful crystalline vocals begin to ring out in her latest album Scottish Songbook, my trip begins anew – as will yours.

Not only does Polwart’s latest project bring her stunning voice and immeasurable music talents back to us but it also brings a whole new breed of familiarity with it. Scottish Songbook is exactly what it suggests it is; it’s a hand-picked collection of songs from a variety of Scottish artists that spans more than 60 years and includes tracks from the likes of Strawberry Switchblade, John Martyn and even Biffy Clyro. Songs that you have heard a thousand times over are now flipped on their head in the most stunning and soulfully blended renditions that you could ever hope to hear. But what is so remarkable is that unless you are looking into these songs as covers, it’s likely you would never notice. Such a unique and inimitably Polwart-esque spin is put on each song that although the heart of the song is recognisable, there is so much beauty in her work to distract you from this fact. Every track has been firmly taken and melded into something that is purely her own.

Karine recently made her NPR debut in the U.S., following a show at New York’s Carnegie Hall. You can watch back Karine’s Tiny Desk Concert from here:

Polwart is an artist in every sense of the word because even when the words are not her own, her production and delivery is akin to being dragged down to an underwater cavern where the whole world shimmers and glistens. There is something almost otherworldly about her work that transcends your surroundings and completely absorbs you. A wealth of inspirational and mesmerising songs pack themselves into Scottish Songbook with the power to raise you up but also the power to crush you. Renditions the likes of Machines by Biffy Clyro are already an emotive song that can move you but the tender and emotional delivery Polwart gives is absolutely soul-rending. With a seemingly never-ending flow of talent in her life it is little surprise that Polwart can turn her hand to others music in such a transcendent manner and Scottish Songbook serves simultaneously as a historical account of Scottish pop music and also a homage to everyone who has worked to make the music industry what it is today.

Scottish Songbook is a bold and beautiful collection of songs that flows like a river and feels as natural as the air. Rich, brazen and breath-taking it is a collection that takes you through time and space from the comfort of your living room and lets you fall in love with track after track until an undeniable contentment washes over you.

14 November ABERDEEN Music Hall
15 November PERTH Concert Hall
16 November EDINBURGH Usher Hall
27 November LONDON Barbican

Karine has also collaborated with visual artist Jen Frankwell on a series of artworks to accompany each new track, with some of Jen’s artwork available to view here:

More info at:

Review by Joe Knipe


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