Music Matters - with John Murray

John Murray
John Murray

ANYONE who name checks Farah Fawcett and Steve McQueen in the first line of the first song of a new album must suggest further investigation. When it comes from Scottish starlet Karine Polwart we know we are in for a treat.

Traces (Hegri), released this week, will be a source of comfort for those who enjoyed her recent appearances at Cambridge Folk Festival or indeed Fife’s finest Big Tent Festival.

Always a song with a story and of course personally written and performed on guitar, harmonium and percussion to perfection down to the detail of with the packaging design.

We should expect this from the inner Karine with songs inspired by the industry of Grangemouth (‘Tinsel Show’), the Occupy Movement at St Pauls (‘King Of Birds’) and the murder tragedy of Susan Maxwell on ‘Half A Mile’ with chilling lyrics and fearsome percussion.

Stories aside these songs can calm the room through her acoustics and melancholy style. Should I dare to say this may be her best work so far and perhaps one that will propel her to new levels? Previously a Folk Award winner I expect more by this time next year.

A lady of some pedigree now flavouring her music with jazz, Joan Armatrading similarly is at peace with her music and completely in control on Starlight (Hypertension). All guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals and drum programming is down to her and of course she writes all the songs down to the rapid rap on the opening ‘Single Life’.

She too played Cambridge and now embarks on 52 UK shows starting next month.

So aside of the audience waiting for ‘Love And Affection’ and ‘Drop The Pilot’ she has recently explored rock on her album ‘This Charming Life’ which followed ‘Into The Blues’ from 2007.

Clever as it is the chemistry between live musicians seems noticeable and songs like ‘Always On My Mind’ come over as aggressive with stabbing guitar yet this is a love song. Some tracks like ‘Busy With You’ miss the mark in their simplicity while some like ‘Summer Kisses’ with quartet format excel.