Dreamy but stimulating at the right time, Still As Your Sleeping is a serious and enveloping soundtrack. Very warm and beautifully life affirming. A truly magnificent and magical duo.
Karine Polwart & Dave Milligan – Always like your sleep
Hudson Records – October 1, 2021
Karine Polwart and Dave milliganthe new version of, Always like your sleep, is a clean recording focusing on the dialogue between Polwart’s warm voice and Milligan’s soothing piano. Polwart is well known as one of Scotland’s most compelling and inspiring singer-songwriters, possessing a tender yet formidable voice in equal measure. Milligan is perhaps best known as a jazz pianist, but here demonstrates a sensitive and competent ear for folk and traditional influences, although there are still many jazz touches and flourishes filtered through. Always like your sleep.
It’s beautifully simple but extremely absorbing listening. The intimacy between the voice and the piano totally captivates you, warmly plunging you into the confidence of the duo. The couple live next to each other in Pathhead, a Midlothian village about eleven miles south of Edinburgh, and have known each other for several years. From then on, this confidence and this familiarity are felt in a palpable way in their music, a tangible bond between the two musicians. As Polwart says, “A voice and a piano can contain a lot of space, a lot of feeling.” At Always like your sleep, it is felt deeply.
The ten tracks on the album include self-written songs and a few well-chosen traditional songs. ‘Craigie Hill’ presents the album, a light and bubbly romance that opens with a rising piano; it effortlessly accommodates the ear and sets the stage for a rather magnificent listening. It’s a song with a long history and it’s been recorded by Paddy Tunney, Dick Gaughan and Cara Dillon before, here however, Polwart and Milligan smoothly make the song their own. It’s a fresh take on, Polwart’s soft and mellow voice perfectly accompanied by the light touch of Milligan.
Alasdair robertsThe song ‘Old Men of the Shells’ is about home, age and the sea: “To find my home in the ocean swells / And follow the old men of the shells” sings Polwart to the heartbeat of the piano from Milligan. On the other hand, ‘Siccar Point’ plays with the words spoken, creating an intimacy between the listener and the voice, Polwart oscillating between song and spoken poetry. It is a song with a fragile message, but also eternal: “Only one thing is certain”, she declares before whispering: “Everything dissolves and disappears”.
It is also a treat to hear a song by the late Michael Marra. “Heaven’s Hound” comes with a mellow sensibility that contrasts with Marra’s original rawness while the poignant “The Parting Glass”, a song about friends and family, of loss and longing, is delivered with sensitivity through the Polwart’s soothing smudge.
“The Path That Winds Before Us” is a heartwarming and reassuring listening, an encouragement to recognize the better days to come and to have faith in the future. “Don’t worry. Don’t hurry / The seed will take a long time to grow,” Polwart sings over Milligan’s soft piano. It’s a simple but powerful message: “One step, then another is the only place where we need to go.
The duo also deliver an effective rendition of “The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood” by Richard Fariña, to the Irish tune “My Lagan Love”. It works amazingly well, with strings and synth accompaniment encouraging a wider, almost more orchestral sound, unlike the simplicity of the rest of the album.
Kate McGarrigle’s “Talk to me of Mendocino” picks up the pace slightly, taking us across the Atlantic and the seasons. It’s a confident version and perfectly illustrates Polwart’s power as a singer.
A particular favorite is the penultimate track, the self-written ‘Travel these ways‘, where Milligan accompanies Polwart on vocals. The song was commissioned for Luminate, the Scottish Festival of Creative Aging, to help people with dementia and encourage participation in Luminate’s Dementia Inclusive Singing Network. It’s a simple song but with a powerful message: “Wherever we go / Wherever we are / Whatever the wind and the weather / Wherever we go / Wherever we are / We will walk these paths together” repeat Polwart. and Milligan. It’s a song about family, care, support and love. Sweet-bitter but filled with quiet affection.
Always like your sleep was conceived and written during the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, an uncertain time when solace and assurance were actively sought. It was also recorded within ten minutes of Polwart’s own house, an important decision: “It has never seemed more important to me to make music,” Polwart notes, “and to tell stories, to where I am, with the people I live with. , my friends and neighbors.
The album ends with the duo’s interpretation of ‘Ae Fond Kiss’. It sometimes feels like every Scottish musician has to include this Burns song on their album. It’s a testament to the duo’s talents that their version is both contemporary and respectful. Polwart and Milligan know the true heart of the song – evident in the sweet, touching core of their delivery; Polwart’s voice and Milligan’s piano gently bypass each other, offering a pleasantly refreshing rendition of a familiar favorite. It’s a nice conclusion to the album, a poignant and sincere feeling.
For Polwart, the assembly of songs on Always like your sleep exists at the edge of things. Summarizing the collection, she notes: “People say goodbye to what they know, to their loved ones, and maybe even to life, while others are brought back to the world of the living. There is also a deep sense of time, both for those who came before us and for those who are yet to come ”. And this sense of timelessness and passing time runs deep in Still As Your Sleeping’s song selection. Most of the songs have a personal connection to Polwart and Milligan, giving the album immediate and emotional power.
Karine Polwart and Dave Milligan have designed an elegantly simple listening. Dreamy but stimulating at the right time, Still As Your Sleeping is a serious and enveloping soundtrack. Very warm and beautifully life affirming. A truly magnificent and magical duo.
Still As Your Sleeping is out today (October 1) via Hudson Records (Signed CD, fine art prints, digital)
Vinyl LP’s release date is currently 12/10/21; however, Hudson Records tells us that they are pushing to move forward if possible; it will be worth the wait!
Order Always like your sleep here: http://smarturl.it/stillasyoursleeping | https://hudsonrecords.co.uk/product/karine-polwart-dave-milligan-still-as-your-sleeping
Karine Polwart Trio is currently on tour. For all the details, visit: https://www.karinepolwart.com/gigs
Hudson Records also has specially printed and signed illustrations by Jenni Douglas of the cover image of “Still As Your Sleeping”; the print will be signed and numbered by Jenni! These are limited to 250, so grab them quickly! Order here. Find everything about Jenni here – https://www.jennidouglas.co.uk