TRACES

by Karine Polwart

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The Scotsman ✭✭✭✭✭
Songlines ✭✭✭✭✭
LSM ✭✭✭✭✭
The Guardian ✭✭✭✭
The Observer ✭✭✭✭
Mail On Sunday ✭✭✭✭
Independent ✭✭✭✭
The Express ✭✭✭✭
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FT ✭✭✭✭

Beautiful, poignant, evocative 5th solo album from one of Scotland's most celebrated and loved singer-songwriters.
Produced by Iain Cook (one half of Glasgow band The Unwinding Hours, and an experienced composer for television) 'Traces' draws inspiration from the history and symbolism of St Paul's Cathedral via The Occupy Movement (in the sweeping 'King of Birds'), ponders the ways in which Charles Darwin's family life might have impacted on him as a thinker (in the poignant 'We're All Leaving') and recalls the childhood mystique of the BP petrochemical plant at Grangemouth on the River Forth (in the uplifting 'Tinsel Show'). A visceral connection to "the crimson towers of the city you were born in" underpins the hypnotic and percussive insistence of 'Tears for Lots Wife'; whilst the elegiac harmonium and accordion duet of 'Sticks N Stones' conjures the leaving of a family home via "inch marks on door frames" and the imprint of "hopes in the plasterboard".
Supported by her two regular touring collaborators, brother Steven Polwart (guitars & vocals) and Fair Islander Inge Thomson (accordion, percussion and vocals), Polwart's own direct musical contribution to Traces has expanded beyond her usual acoustic guitars to include Indian harmonium, floor percussion, and even modest use of field recordings.
Throughout the album this core trio is sympathetically augmented by producer Cook on piano, keys and percussion, and by judicious use of guest musicians on tuned percussion (marimba, vibraphone), wind (including Admiral Fallow's Sarah Hayes on flute) and horns.
These additional musical textures support songs such as 'Salter's Road', a gentle eulogy for Polwart's elderly neighbour, Molly Kristensen, and add drama and intensity to the unsettling 'Strange News', which captures the hour immediately after Polwart heard of the sudden death of her younger cousin, Ewan. A humane response to the darker side of life has rarely ever been far from Polwart's pen.
But 'Half a Mile', the unflinching closing track of Traces, is, by her own reckoning, the most difficult song she's committed to record yet. Written in memory of Northumbrian schoolgirl Susan Maxwell, who was abducted and murdered 30 years ago 'Cover Your Eyes' is featured in the end credits of Antony Baxter's multiple award-winning documentary,'You've Been Trumped.'

Her debut album "Faultlines" won three awards at the 2005 BBC Folk Awards, including Best Album. Its follow up, "Scribbled in Chalk" (2006), contained "Daisy", which won Polwart another BBC Folk Award for Best Original Song in 2007. Karine is also a founding member of the Scottish/Canadian group, The Burns Unit, whose 2010 album, Side Show, was widely acclaimed.

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released August 13, 2012

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One of the finest singer-songwriters in Britain" The Guardian

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Track Name: Cover Your Eyes
I was Farrah Fawcett, you were Steve McQueen
And we rode your silver Grifter
Half the way from Aberdeen

And the waves fall
How they fall

I kept lookout in the marram grass
U-boats on the skyline
Commandos at the pass

And the waves fall
How they fall

The tide still ebbs and flows
where the Ythan meets the ocean
And not even God himself
ould can stop the northerlies from blowing
You can tear these dunes asunder
Pound this wonder into dust
with your cruel hands and crooked hearts
laden with lust and expensive lies
But the haar will stumble in to cover your eyes
The haar will stumble in

You said “Michael blew the clouds away”
And sure a scarlet shard of sunset scores the granite grey

And the waves fall
How they fall

And the tide still ebbs and flows …
Track Name: King Of Birds
KING OF BIRDS

At Ludgate Hill
on the cracked and blackened cobbles of the town
the ashes fall to rest
As the tiny King of Birds he flutters down
to build a citadel
to light glory in the dark
and from hell
to breath hope in every heart

At Ludgate Hill
through the siren screams the heavens burn again
the city holds its breath
as the tiny little king in slumber bed
arises from the dust
to light glory in the dark
and through the frost
to breathe hope in every heart

At Ludgate Hill
where the towers of smoke and mirrors bruise the sky
the pilgrims huddle in
as the tiny King of Birds begins to cry
the people start to sing
to light glory in the dark
to ring the bell
and to breathe hope in every heart
Track Name: Tears For Lot's Wife
TEARS FOR LOTS WIFE

A righteous light is carrying a just man
over the black hill
and a restless voice is harrying you
It’s not too late

You can turn again
(don’t look back, don’t look back)
You can look back still
(don’t look back, don’t look back)
You can turn, turn, turn again
from the brow of the black hill
(don’t look back)

To the crimson towers of the city you were born in
To the square where you sang
To the spinning shed where you spun your thread
To the tall and empty windows of your home
where sons and daughters blessed your bed

One glance and a searing sting of pain
Stitched up her eyes before she made a sound
and the salt suffused her body
and her legs were rooted to the ground

Who’s gonna mourn?
One woman in a storm?

Who will lament the life
She left to burn
Track Name: Don't Worry
DON’T WORRY

Don’t worry
worrying won’t pay the bills
I would trade in the view from this mountainside
for some tiny little molehills

When the soldier comes back
with the weight of the world in his little knapsack
He’s gonna need a hand to hold
to ease out the thorns from the heart of his soul
and roll away the stone

Don’t worry
worrying won’t make it all stop
I would trade in the swell of the ocean
for one tiny little rain drop

When the soldier comes back
with the weight of the world in his little knapsack
He’s gonna need a hand to hold
to ease out the thorns from the heart of his soul
and roll away the stone
I will roll away the stone
I will roll away the stone
And set you free
Track Name: We're All Leaving
WE’RE ALL LEAVING

There is thunder on the skyline
And it tears her breath away
Like the twilight steals the day

A father’s kind hand could not command her
To return to him once more
Like a soldier from the war

We’re all leaving
Even the ones who stay behind
We’re all leaving
in our own time

Each night surrenders to a morning
And beneath the April skies
He can hear an endless cry
On smiling fields there's a battle raging
And for every bloom he knows
Another flower never grows

And he has no Ark to bear him from this flood
Just a broken vessel wrought in flesh and blood
And though the riptides pull him under
He will not cease to wonder
At the beauty
The beauty
The beauty
The beauty

He takes her mother to the church door
And while she prays for what will come
He walks those woods alone

And there he builds his own cathedrals
And on every whirring wing
He can hear the whole world sing
Track Name: Tinsel Show
TINSEL SHOW

In the East the fires are burning
Spires of stone and steel
Smoke stack engine turning
Wheel upon wheel

From a window, such a wonder
Galaxies have come to land
She sees stars and spells and spangles
Sparklers in her hand

And the eyes of ages watch our tinsel show
While hireling wages steal our dreams from our souls

In the East the fires are burning
Spires of steel and stone
Smoke stack engine turning
Wheel upon wheel

From her window, such a wonder
Flying saucers on the shore
She sees disco lights and diamonds
Bold Orion’s sword

And the eyes of ages watch our tinsel show
While hireling wages steal our dreams from our souls

Minarets of industry
and spinnerets of alchemy
Belfry towers for bells to ring in
Colonnades of chemistry
and cavalcades of conjury
Choir stalls for hearts to sing in

In the East the fires are burning
Track Name: Strange News
STRANGE NEWS

Strange news is at this table
Strange news and stranger still
In boots and a bobble hat I hap you up from the morning chill

One brother makes another call
One brother lets it ring
And at the head of the path you laugh as a lone blackbird begins to sing

And a mother does just what she must
And a father comes undone
In the not yet snow we wave and shout ‘hello!’ to a morning sun

Strange news arrives unbidden
Strange news and stranger still

Strange news is at this table
Strange news and stranger still
There are plastic strings of gold and ice-cold beer on the windowsill

Somewhere a boy is asking ‘when?’
Somewhere a woman ‘why?’
And in the field out back we wait for the crack of wings in a winter sky

And a mother does just what she must…

There’s a blood red mark upon my door
(You passed us over, passed us over)

Strange news is at this table
Strange news and stranger still
There's glitter on the dirt road, and a light slung low on Soutra hill

One brother makes another call
One brother lets it ring
And at the head of the path you laugh as a lone blackbird begins to sing

And a mother does just what she must …
Track Name: Sticks n Stones
I’m bruised by the early morning,
I hear the whole house breathing

Footsteps in empty hallways fall to the sound of leaving

Inch marks on doorframes
And thumbprints on window frames
Ghosts of hereafter

Kitchen walls pock marked
With shadows of blue tack
And riddled with laughter

Scars where the bed stood
And names scored on old wood
And dreams in the rafters

Secrets in timbers
And tears spilled on red bills
And hopes in the plasterboard

Out in the world of numbers
One door doesn’t count at all

It’s just sticks n stones (and our dreams in the rafters)
It’s just sticks n stones our hopes in the plasterboard)
It’s just sticks n stones (and our dreams in the rafters)
It’s just sticks n stones our hopes in the plasterboard)
It’s just sticks n stones (and our dreams in the rafters)
It’s just sticks n stones
And our stories
Track Name: Salters Road
SALTER’S ROAD

She was waiting for a boy
In her corduroy britches
Driving on a Clydesdale like her father once had done
From Mutton Hole to Preston Hall through all the dells and ditches
And an avenue of burly beech that reach towards the sun

For miles and miles and miles she’d roam
Down Salter’s Road to Fala Dam and all the way home
For miles and miles and miles she’d roam

She was waiting for a boy
In his trews of navy cotton
Something she had half-forgotten is as clear as water now
The horseman’s only daughter takes the Friday boat to Bergen
And the waves swell like a barley field that’s ready to lay down

For miles and miles and miles she’d roam
Down Salter’s Road to Fala Dam and all the way home
For miles and miles and miles she’d roam

Down the spine of the St Lawrence
To Kirkwall’s stony shore
The old north wind gathers her into his arms once more

She was waiting for a boy
He came skipping down to greet her
Through the starch and bleach and buttons he was singing out her name
The evening clouds are huddled in so close that you could catch them
Granite sheen upon the river and the shimmering of rain

For miles and miles and miles she’d roam
Down Salter’s Road to Fala Dam and all the way home
For miles and miles and miles she’d roam
Down Whippielaw and Windy Mains and all the way home
All the way home …
Track Name: Half A Mile
HALF A MILE

Half a mile to go
All dressed in yellow
Swinging your racquet like Navratilova
Over the five-arch bridge
Along the verge of the main road
Half a mile to go

You were high on being alone
You were high on being old enough to walk home
For the first time
(Half a mile to go)
For the first time
(Half a mile to go
For the first time)
(Half a mile to go

Did you make it past the oak and the boortree
To where the wheat stalks the copse on the hill?
Did you spy big barn where the road bends round?
And were the finches charming you?
And were you singing?
Were you singing “Poor Old Johnny Ray”?

You were high …

How we raked through the hedges and ditches
The blistering hogweed and the ragged bulrushes
How we raked through the hedges and ditches
The blistering hogweed and the ragged bulrushes
How we raked through the hedges and ditches
But it was no good

You were high …

And the trucks still roll by
(Tweed runs to the ocean)