Mel McClellan
March 2004 

Blipping the folk scene radar first with a stint in Battlefield Band then with her own group Malinky, this 33-year old Scot comes of age with her debut solo album. Eleven original songs confirm suspicions that Polwart's writing abilities - already flagged up by Thaney and The Dreadful End Of Marianna For Sorcery from the Malinky repertoire - are mature and compelling.

With a vocal presence reminiscent of Natalie Merchant, Polwart's firmly contemporary collection is laced with dark themes and strong storylines. With a background in philosophy and the field of domestic and child abuse she's clearly a thinker, and her intelligent, ambiguous lyrics attend the Beth Orton/Shawn Colvin school of women with something to say. Melodically, the album is a kaleidoscope, from the jazzy, muted-trumpet opener Only One Way to the brooding tempo and edgy guitars of the modern murder ballad that closes the set. In between, a country-tinged fiddle-waltz (The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill), latino horns (Skater Of The Surface), a soft-focus metaphor for loss and anxiety (title track), a pop love song (Four Strong Walls) ... but what could be a stylistic ragbag is held together by vocal integrity and cohesive arrangements shot through with traditional instrumentation and just a hint of Scottishness lending pure originality. The bright touch of Corinna Hewat's electro-harp and a subtle input of melodeon, fiddle and banjo work perfectly with guitars, bass, drums/percussion and occasional horns.

Faultlines is both personal and political but tub-thumping it isn't - a passing appearance from George Bush's teeth within the first few minutes typically illustrates Polwart's take on songs with a message and there's bags of space for personal interpretation. A major candidate for album of the year.