Wind Resistance

music review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
33328 large
39658 original
Published 06 Aug 2016

Pink-footed geese know a thing or two about wind resistance. And as Scots folk singer (and folk hero, if the rapturous crowds at her performance are anything to go by) Karine Polwart is at pains to point out, they could teach humans a few tricks. Her song-filled, meandering performance is inspired by the skeins, or 'v'-shapes, that geese form as they fly: avian teamwork in motion.

Her narrative isn't quite as streamlined as those skeins. But it hums with the rich texture of the moors and peat bogs that wild geese fly over. Polwart elucidates, with loving care, its multicoloured sphagnum mosses, the wild berries and their healing properties, the trees and the folk stories that nestle in their leaves.

And she lavishes care on its human inhabitants, too, telling a 100-year-old love story that's interwoven with beautiful folk songs, strummed on her guitar. Soon we start to feel we know her homeland of Fala Moor, and its fascinating history. An especially powerful strand contrasts the skill of the 12th-century hospital that stood there with her own, painful experiences of childbirth. But she soon skips on to stories of Alex Ferguson, to her pinafored-childhood, to her son's quirks, with only the faintest brush of a goose's wing to connect it all.

This light-footedness means that the environmental message at its heart loses, rather than gains, power as the two-hour performance nears it end. But what doesn't fade is the warmth of Polwart's love for a vulnerable landscape, and her talent for sharing it.