sat 16/10/2021

Karine Polwart, Birmingham Town Hall Review: Expertly crafted modern folk | reviews, news & interviews

Karine Polwart, Birmingham Town Hall Review: Expertly crafted modern folk

Karine Polwart, Birmingham Town Hall Review: Expertly crafted modern folk

the Karine Polwart Trio return to Brum with a mix of old and new music

With a few extra dates to her rescheduled UK tour, Scottish folk legend Karine Polwart returned to Birmingham Town Hall with some tunes from her latest album – Still as You’re Sleeping, an album of just voice and piano recording with jazz pianist Dave Milligan – plus a mix of earlier material, covers and traditional songs given her own signature twist.

On stage with Polwart for this tour is her brother, guitarist Steven Polwart, and her neighbour and friend, multi-instrumentalist Inge Thomson. Opening with “Ophelia”, from the trio’s 2018 album Laws of Motion, the group at once performed with a great balance and relaxed synergy. “Young Man on a Mountain”, written about Karine and Steven’s grumpy Grandad whose dourness was perhaps a result of his past as a soldier in Italy during the Second World War, featured more unusual and unnerving harmonies. A song with similar themes both musically and literary, “Suitcase” ponders the thoughts and feelings of an old man who’d arrived in the UK as a boy from central Europe via the Kindertransport system. “Tears for Lot’s Wife”, an adaptation of a poem by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, was more rousing, and jazz influences were abundant in “The Path that Winds Before Us”, taken from Polwart’s new album.

During the second half, Inge Thomson took the spotlight for one of her own tunes: a song inspired by Rachel Carson’s 1962 environmental science book Silent Spring which then ends with a more upbeat jig. Recording herself playing a motif on a low whistle, she looped that sound to accompany her singing, along with other electronics. It’s interesting to see that kind of technology used in such an innovative way and one which is wholly in keeping with and sympathetic to the genre.

“We’re all Leaving” – a song inspired by Charles Darwin and the loss of his 10-year-old daughter Annie - had a beautiful descending guitar part and some gorgeous harmonies, and the trio’s cover of “Video Killed the Radio Star” was sweet, quirky and fun. Ending the set with a triptych of songs about birds, “Follow the Heron” was serene and poignant while Sydney Carter’s “Crow on the Cradle” had a darker nuance, expertly portraying the lyrics’ sense of premonition. An uplifting end to Polwart’s set, “The King of Birds” was cheering and heartfelt, and a timely reminder that we’re at our best when we work together and pool our strengths.

“Follow the Heron” was serene and poignant while Sydney Carter’s “Crow on the Cradle” had a darker nuance

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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