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Karine Polwart (born 23 December 1970) is a Scottish singer-songwriter, generally associated with the folk scene. After singing with Malinky and Battlefield Band, her debut album Faultlines won an armful of awards, and has been followed up with Scribbled in Chalk, Fairest Floo'er (an album of traditional songs performed with minimal instrumentation), This Earthly Spell and 2012's Traces.


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  • Album Title Drop: Her preferred method of album titling; only Faultlines has an actual Title Track.
  • Arc Symbol: Herons. She loves 'em.
  • Blasphemous Boast: A mild one in Cover your Eyes, with the line "Not even God Himself could stop the northerlies from blowing"
  • Breakthrough Hit: She's never actually had a mainstream hit, but in terms of getting noticed as a folk artist, Polwart acknowledges "The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill" as fulfilling this role for her.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Sometimes writes with her brother Steven, who also plays guitar in her backing band. Most of Fairest Floo'er was performed by just the two of them.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: "Tongue That Cannot Lie".
  • Cessation of Existence: "Light On The Shore".
  • Charity Motivation Song: "A Well for Zoe".
  • Children Are Innocent: "Daisy"
  • Death by Irony: First invoked, then inverted in "The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill" with the protagonist's death "full of whiskey and irony" followed by the narrator's failure to emulate it.
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  • Disposable Sex Worker: The implied fate of the narrator of Maybe There's a Road.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A poem appears without title or explanation on the last page of the Scribbled In Chalk CD booklet. It's actually part of "Behind Our Eyes", which would appear on her next album, two years later.
  • Fading into the Next Song: The transition from "Firethief" into "Behind Our Eyes" on This Earthly Spell.
  • Folk Rock: Some of her early material, before she settled down to more of a straight Modern Folk style.
  • Greatest Hits Album: The Canadian release Threshold, though it oddly omits "The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill" (see Breakthrough Hit above).
  • Grief Song: Quite a few. "Waterlily" is a pretty full-on example; "The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill" merges the Grief Song with Earn Your Happy Ending to produce a more hopeful variant, and there are numerous others.
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  • Happily Ever After: "John C. Clark (The Gasman Song)"
  • Happily Failed Suicide: the widowed narrator of "The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill" tries to replicate the circumstances of her husband's death, with this result.
  • The Invisible Band: Only one song, "I'm Gonna Do It All", has an official promo video, and Karine isn't in it. Instead the whole song is lip-synced by a 9-year-old girl.
  • "I Want" Song: "I'm Gonna Do It All"
  • Nature Lover: "Take Its Own Time", "We're All Leaving"
  • No Sense of Time: Averting this trope is the whole point of "Terminal Star". Sadly, though it's a good attempt, she doesn't quite get it right: the song is about a star 100 million light years away, which is orders of magnitude too far away to be visible to the naked eye.
  • Not Christian Rock: Although Bible stories go into the lyrical melting pot with all the other myths and folklore. The most obvious Bible inspired song being Tears For Lot's Wife.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: In among a run of very dark songs on This Earthly Spell, "The News" is a spectacular bit of Mood Whiplash not only for being suddenly Lighter and Softer, but also being performed in a jazz/doo-wop style never heard in her catalogue before or since.
  • Posthumous Narration:
    • Maybe There's a Road heavily implies that that the narrator has been Dead All Along.
    • Azalea Flower features the narrator apparently telling the story of her own murder, and then switches to a third person POV.
  • Protest Song: "Cover Your Eyes"
  • Refrain from Assuming: "Daisy" gets called by some portion of its refrain "There are people in this world who don't think like you do" enough that the sheet music lists the refrain in brackets on the front page below the actual title.
  • Shout-Out: A great many songs are based on folklore and a few are Ripped from the Headlines.
  • Shrug of God: "Sorry" is usually assumed to be about Tony Blair and the Second Gulf War, but she won't confirm or deny it. Significant in that she's usually happy to explain the meanings of her songs.
  • Singer-Songwriter
  • Stepford Smiler: "Only One Way"
  • Switching P.O.V.: Azalea Flower swaps from a first person to a third person narration after the first verse, with the implication that the original narrator has been murdered.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: "Sorry"
  • Twisted Christmas: "Strange News" is a true story about this happening to the Polwart family.
  • Uncommon Time: "Harder To Walk These Days Than Run" swaps between 4/4 and 9/8; "Terminal Star" is in 7/4.
  • Watching the Sunset: "Follow The Heron"
  • With Lyrics: Wrote words to Future Pilot AKA's instrumental "Maid of the Loch".
  • Worth Living For: "The Sun's Comin' Over The Hill"
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