Produced by Iain Cook (one half of Glasgow band The Unwinding Hours, and an experienced composer for television) 'Traces' draws inspiration from the history and symbolism of St Paul's Cathedral via The Occupy Movement (in the sweeping 'King of Birds'), ponders the ways in which Charles Darwin's family life might have impacted on him as a thinker (in the poignant 'We're All Leaving') and recalls the childhood mystique of the BP petrochemical plant at Grangemouth on the River Forth (in the uplifting 'Tinsel Show'). A visceral connection to "the crimson towers of the city you were born in" underpins the hypnotic and percussive insistence of 'Tears for Lots Wife'; whilst the elegiac harmonium and accordion duet of 'Sticks N Stones' conjures the leaving of a family home via "inch marks on door frames" and the imprint of "hopes in the plasterboard".
Supported by her two regular touring collaborators, brother Steven Polwart (guitars & vocals) and Fair Islander Inge Thomson (accordion, percussion and vocals), Polwart's own direct musical contribution to Traces has expanded beyond her usual acoustic guitars to include Indian harmonium, floor percussion, and even modest use of field recordings. Throughout the album this core trio is sympathetically augmented by producer Cook on piano, keys and percussion, and by judicious use of guest musicians on tuned percussion (marimba, vibraphone), wind (including Admiral Fallow's Sarah Hayes on flute) and horns. These additional musical textures support songs such as 'Salter's Road', a gentle eulogy for Polwart's elderly neighbour, Molly Kristensen, and add drama and intensity to the unsettling 'Strange News', which captures the hour immediately after Polwart heard of the sudden death of her younger cousin, Ewan. A humane response to the darker side of life has rarely ever been far from Polwart's pen. But 'Half a Mile', the unflinching closing track of Traces, is, by her own reckoning, the most difficult song she's committed to record yet. Written in memory of Northumbrian schoolgirl Susan Maxwell, who was abducted and murdered 30 years ago 'Cover Your Eyes' is featured in the end credits of Antony Baxter's multiple award-winning documentary,'You've Been Trumped.'
"A complex, thoughtful, engrossing and ultimately substantial album" fRoots
"One of our most lyrically striking, and significant, artists." The Herald 4✭✭✭✭
"One of the finest singer-songwriters in Britain' The Guardian 4✭✭✭✭
"Eloquent and at times heartstopping" The Scotsman 5✭✭✭✭✭
"An impressively mature collection' Independent 4✭✭✭✭
"A carefully crafted delight" The Sun 4✭✭✭✭
"Intensely written and arresting" FT 4✭✭✭✭