By Ian D. Hall -  14 August 2012

There are just some musicians who shouldn’t be allowed, by act of law if need be, to be away from the public eye for too long. Scotland’s Karine Polwart is one such singer songwriter whose absence makes the world a darker place to inhabit, even though her songs are crammed full of enough of subjects that though nefarious and sad are what give life meaning, no matter how sorrowful.

Five albums down the road and Traces just might be her best yet. It has everything that you would expect if you are a fan of hers and for anyone picking up her album for the first time; it has tonnes that you wouldn’t envisage or dare dream of on the record.

What is overwhelmingly obvious is the care she puts into each track. The lyrics might sit uncomfortably with some but in the best traditions of folk music it just gives this Scottish musician even more weaponry to take on the abusive, the ignorant and those that mess with nature and humanity.

The opening song, Cover Your Eyes is a majestic side swipe at those that allowed the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire to sell out to The Trump International Golf Links as they ripped up and destroyed Balmedie Dune Systems.  At the same time, she gives the song the power of relationship memory, of a time when pretending to be Steve McQueen and Farrah Fawcett as you rode through the countryside was just part of simple life.

That is was probably makes Ms. Polwart so immediately likeable, she’s not afraid to take on the ridiculous and inane. She also isn’t afraid to search inside personal heartache as she looks at the life of Charles Darwin and the life of his daughter Annie who he lost when she was ten. The devastating feeling of losing a child is a very raw subject to take on but in We’re All Leaving, Karine Polwart handles this with sensitivity and good grace.

If you are ever going to line up and follow a flag of someone else’s colours, you could do worse than consider Karine Polwart.  A haunting voice, lyrics that increase your appreciation for life whilst ever mindful of the pitfalls that await us all and most of all, just so eminently listenable. Ethereal beauty wrapped up in a Scottish identity and smothered in excellence.

A top album by a top artist.