KARINE POLWART: FULL BIOGRAPHY (July 2006)
Karine Polwart’s songs and voice creep up on you in quite unexpected ways.
Her deceptively jaunty wee trucking song “Maybe There’s A Road” opened a
recent edition of UK soap Hollyoaks and she closed the final programme of The
Hairy Bikers’ Cookbook. She’s a co‐-writer and guest vocalist on Idlewild
frontman Roddy Woomble’s new album “My Secret is My Silence” and will
feature, alongside Belle and Sebastian, on the forthcoming album release by
Glasgow indie collective Future Pilot AKA. And she contributed some of the
most vivid and starkly affecting songs to the acclaimed music‐-social
documentary series The Radio Ballads, aired on Radio 2 earlier this year. Word
is getting out.
Filmed recently for a feature on BBC 2’s “Culture Show”, Karine has also been
chalking up a considerable national radio presence over the past few months
with live sessions for BBC Radio 2, 3, 5 and 6, including Drivetime, Janice Long,
Andy Kershaw, Simon Mayo and Tom Robinson, not to mention regular plays by
Bob Harris and others and sustained support from local radio networks. She’s
also picked up some fans over at RTE1 in Ireland.
But then Karine’s sophomore album “Scribbled in Chalk” is a far from careless
affair. The Scottish Borders based singer‐-songwriter combines the economy and
universality of the storytelling tradition with a probing intellect, compassionate
lyricism and a canny knack for memorable melodies. She’s unafraid of tricky
subjects: her quietly disturbing tales of human cruelty and loss ‐- twentieth
century genocide, TV executions and sex trafficking ‐- betray her background as
an anti‐-violence and children’s rights activist. But this dark streak is offset by
wistful musings upon the age and beauty of the night sky, comic tales of
lovelorn gas installers and wry observations on the links between cosmetic
dentistry and global domination. Her pervasive sense of hope and possibility
prove she’s a musician who understands both the best and the worst that the
world has to offer.
Building upon the success of her debut album “Faultlines”, which picked up
Best Album at the 2005 BBC Folk Awards, alongside awards for Best Original
Song and The Horizon Award for Best Newcomer, “Scribbled in Chalk”
resonates with roots influences but has a resolutely contemporary sensibility.
At 35, Karine is no novice, however, and her apprenticeship on the
international folk‐-roots scene with traditional Scots groups Battlefield Band and
Malinky make her a vibrant on stage communicator. Her refreshingly direct
stage presence, the emotional depth of her writing and the quality of her live
performances are backed up by a dedicated and personal web presence, which,
together have won her a loyal and ever expanding audience.
With a Masters degree in philosophy (don’t try to win a debate with her!),
Karine delivers her profoundly personal and quietly political messages without
posturing and with plenty of room for individual interpretation. Her humanity
and sense of justice, as well as her warmth and wit, shine through. She says,
“The thing I love most of all about writing songs is the meanings they take on
for the people who hear them. I’m really humbled by the stories they tell me
about their lives and experiences as a result.”