Karine Polwart – Laws of Motion

Album Review | Hudson Records | Review by Steve Henderson | Stars: 5/5

Lavish praise, indeed, was heaped on Karine Polwart’s last album and its wider theatrical project, A Pocket of Wind Reststance. It was well deserved praise and it certainly gives the ring of truth to that much overused phrase concerning the arrival of her ‘much anticipated’ follow up, Laws of Motion. So, here we are, the big moment has arrived. She returns with regular musical partners, brother Steven Polwart and Inge Thomson, on board for Laws of Motion. It resembles its predecessor in terms of its approach and is equally accomplished in delivering some classy music. This begins with the lovely balled, “Ophelia”, with its slightly haunting melody drawing you into the journey through the album. On the title track that follows, the electronic introduction is a sure-fire sign that Martin Green of Lau is co-writer on this song about migrating refugees. Originally written for the Martin Green’s Flit album, it’s a worthy song to adopt as the title track for the Laws of Motion and its theme flags the political mood of various other tracks. “Suitcase” from Flit also gets reappraised though there is a further new collaboration with Martin Green, Matsuo’s “Welcome to Muckhart”, that tells the tale of a gardener from Japan who found that tending a Japanese garden in Scotland acted as a source of solace after the personal turmoil created by a major earthquake at home. Returning to the spoken word driven style used to great effect on her preceding album, Polwart adapts the clan motto from Donald Trump’s maternal Scottish family to deliver a powerful reminder that offering hope mixed with fear is a dangerous combination on “I Burn But I Am Not Consumed”. The US President has been a common theme of late for songwriters but she provides an imaginative angle with lyrics that speak from the view of his mother’s birthplace on the Isle of Lewis. Sydney Carter’s “Crow on the Cradle” is a rare dip into the songs of others but it fits perfectly with Polwart’s affection for avian themes but, this time, carrying an anti-war message. The album closes with “Cassiopeia”, a chilling song that mixes past government advice on war and how to protect against radioactive fall-out into a warning for the future. As her sleeve notes say about the advice on hiding places, “now, where is the jam cupboard?” Truthfully, I’ve no idea but I hope that I can listen to this album in there.