PAUL SEX­TON scours the new re­leases to find there’s nowt so prog as folk.

Prog - - The Musical Box -

Karine Pol­wart re­newed her al­ready peer­less cre­den­tials ear­lier this year with her sixth BBC Ra­dio 2 Folk Award, as Folk Singer Of The Year. Laws Of Mo­tion (Hud­son) is a speedy fol­low-up to 2017’s lauded A Pocket Of Wind Re­sis­tance, and The Guardian’s de­scrip­tion of that project as an “epic, emo­tional en­deav­our” could hap­pily do ser­vice again here. Much of the ma­te­rial on Pol­wart’s sev­enth re­lease is of a tra­di­tional hue, but her ap­proach is so fear­less and, of­ten, so­cio-po­lit­i­cal that the ef­fect is dar­ingly cut­ting-edge.

Af­ter an acous­tic open­ing for Ophe­lia (a mood that re­turns on the comely Cor­ner­stone and oth­ers) comes a mod­ernistic turn on the ti­tle song, one of those writ­ten with Mid­loth­ian neigh­bour Martin Green. Pol­wart’s stu­dio part­ners through­out are brother Steven on gui­tars and vo­cals and Inge Thom­son on ac­cor­dion, synths and more. Holo­caust sur­vival and mi­gra­tion are con­tem­plated, as is a cer­tain sup­posed leader of the free world with his “dis­re­gard for truth and ap­petite for lies” on the de­li­ciously dis­parag­ing I Burn But

I Am Not Con­sumed. Lion­hearted work, start to fin­ish.

From Welling­ton, New Zealand come the sin­gu­lar Or­ches­tra Of Spheres, whose dou­ble al­bum Mir­ror (Fire) is an ethe­real sonic soup. El­e­ments of psychedelia, avant garde jazz and clas­si­cal in­stru­men­ta­tion abound on a fourth re­lease of of­ten bonkers eclec­ti­cism.

Mean­while, cluck­ing chick­ens and fid­dle rock fin­ery in­tro­duce Ten­ta­tion

(La Pruche Li­bre) from Canada’s Yves Lam­bert Trio. It finds vet­eran Lam­bert, much re­spected on the Québé­cois tra­di­tional scene as founder of both La Bot­tine Souri­ante and the Bébert Or­ches­tra, forg­ing ahead with a trio sound il­lus­trated by his ac­cor­dions and, es­pe­cially, Tommy Gau­thier’s fine fid­dling.

Eight years on from their de­but, fe­male trio Moun­tain Man re­turn with Magic Ship (Bella Union), a new plat­form for the vo­cal in­ter­play shared by Amelia Meath, Alexan­dra SauserMon­nig and Molly Sarlé since col­lege days in Ver­mont. In­stru­men­ta­tion is barely more than re­strained acous­tic gui­tar, as on Baby Where You Are, and, of­ten, not even that, so the can­vas for their del­i­cate har­monies is broad.

Dar­ren Hay­man of­fers the third vol­ume in his re­mark­able Thank­ful Vil­lages se­ries (Belka), widely hailed for its col­lage of un­told sto­ries gath­ered in those 54 small set­tle­ments where every soldier re­turned alive from the Great War. Hay­man has vis­ited every sin­gle one, in a laud­able en­deav­our for which he has cre­ated a sound record­ing, a paint­ing and a film for each. Where churches and rivers were his pre­vi­ous themes, he now ad­dresses the younger gen­er­a­tion, with grip­ping ac­tu­al­ity and bu­colic ac­com­pa­ni­ment stretch­ing from Hun­stan­worth to Helperthorpe. Speak­ing of the younger gen­er­a­tion, Kelly Oliver con­tin­ues to rep­re­sent it with el­e­gant au­then­tic­ity on her self-re­leased Botany Bay. It’s an­other ve­hi­cle for her vo­cal dex­ter­ity and page-turn­ing tales of bold fish­er­men, dark-eyed sailors and the like.

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