From the opening crystal clear repeated note pattern, this album sets about the whole notion of a covers album with a fresh and distinctive voice. This is original and stirring stuff. ‘The Whole of the Moon’ is completely reinvented as a joyous pean to life with gentle production and beautiful harmonies.
The six-times BBC folk awards winner could not have started her album of Scottish songs in a more magical way. This is an eclectic collection: Deacon Blue’s ‘Dignity’ – a simple strummed affair with some simple production touches that enhance an old favourite and move it away from the drunken karaoke staple it has become. John Martyn’s slurred mantra ‘I Don’t Want To Know’ becomes almost hymnal in its stately guise and beautiful use of keyboards and harmonium that bring the lyrics to the fore, investing the song with an urgent keening as it heads for the finish. Ivor Cutler’s ‘Women of the World’ is rendered with a grace that belies its power and even Strawberry Switchblade’s ‘Since Yesterday’ is reinvented as a commentary on ageing and change, featuring as it does a spliced recording of Polwart’s grandfather singing sometime in the ’80s. The song becomes a deep melancholy reflection on loss both of youth and of those we love.
This is an extraordinary collection of interpretations that are far from being hamstrung by a concept. ‘Scottish Songbook’ actually transcends its brief to become a powerful, moving and cohesive work in its own right. Much recommended.