Piano and voice isn’t a combination that you hear much in the folk idiom and yet it can be just as potent as a full band, if not more so. Karine Polwart & Dave Milligan‘s new album, Still As Your Sleeping, is the perfect example of this – deceptively simple, yet devastatingly powerful.
This intimate, stripped-back collection of songs sees award-winning folk singer and songwriter Karine Polwart collaborating with renowned pianist and composer, Dave Milligan. Although known primarily as a jazz pianist, Dave’s writing and arranging often distils folk and traditional influences, making him the perfect creative partner for Karine in what is very much a dual project. Both musicians live in the same Midlothian village of Pathhead and have known each other for years, and this familiarity is evident in the music. It’s a magical combination, and as Karine says, “One voice and one piano can hold a lot of space, a lot of feeling.”
An incredibly personal album, it was recorded less than ten minutes from Karine’s home. Karine said, “It’s never felt more important to me to make music, and tell stories, from exactly where I am, with the people I live alongside, my friends and neighbours”. Of the 10 tracks that make up Still As Your Sleeping, some are old, some are new, but threaded through them all are images of stillness and flux, leaving and returning, and pivots of change. They range from original songs by Karine, such as Travel These Ways, written for Luminate, Scotland’s festival of creative ageing, and Old Men of the Shells by fellow Scot, Alasdair Roberts. There are also traditional songs including Craigie Hill and the timeless and poignant The Parting Glass.
Karine sums the collection up by saying that many of the songs walk the edge of things. “People say goodbye to what they know, to loved ones, and perhaps even to life, whilst others are pulled back to the world of the living. There’s a deep sense of time too, both of those who went before us, and those who’re still to come.”
Karine’s previous solo release, 2019’s Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook, reached the UK Top 40 album charts and toured major UK venues including The Barbican in London and The Usher Hall in Edinburgh (she is currently under commission by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh). Karine’s other records have picked up awards and nominations from the likes of SAY, BBC Radio 2, CATS, Songlines, The Guardian, BBC Radio 3 and more. April 2018 saw Karine named BBC Radio 2 Folk singer of the year.
“Thoroughly warm-hearted and beautifully life-affirming. A genuinely gorgeous and magical duet.” – Folk Radio UK
“Milligan and Polwart achieve nothing short of magnificence. Exquisite” ★★★★★ – Morning Star
“Everything here is an immaculate song, beautifully delivered… quite simply a breath-taking release” – RootsWorld