Threshold

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  1. Rivers Run Becoming a mother in 2007 sparked a frenzy of part celebratory and part anxious writing and reflecting that spawned this song for my son Arlo.
  2. Medusa In 2008, I had the good fortune to participate in a week long writers retreat on Cape Breton Island as part of Celtic Colours International Festival. An afternoon session with the very wise James Keelaghan resulted in this musing upon remembrance. James’ own version of the same song opens his CD “House of Cards”.
  3. Take Its Own Time For my one-of-a-kind dad, Stuart Polwart.
  4. Daisy I wrote this on the birth of my nephew, Lenny, before becoming a mother myself. Now it rings more true every day.
  5. Dowie Dens of Yarrow I lived for several years just over the hill from the bleak and beautiful Yarrow valley in southern Scotland. It’s a place of much historic conflict and this traditional Border Ballad is a brutal reminder that honour killings are part of Scotland’s messy past.
  6. Better Things I’ll be blunt. Nuclear weapons are morally, politically and financially indefensible. The River Clyde in Scotland is host to most of the UK’s nuclear arsenal, though Scots voters are overwhelmingly opposed to their maintenance. Imagine what the £35 billion earmarked to replace the current generation of Trident weapons could do instead?
  7. Sorry I wrote this for a very specific set of political circumstances. But over time the song has attached itself to many other issues. And I’ve enjoyed the way that audiences have owned it on behalf of their own particular concerns. So I no longer say what it’s “about”.
  8. The Death of Queen Jane In 2007, I released an album of traditional and Robert Burns songs called “Fairest Floo’er”. Several of the songs touched on the darker aspects of motherhood; and none more so than this traditional English ballad. It refers to King Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour, who died following childbirth in 1537.
  9. Follow the Heron Written during Scotland’s northernmost Shetland Folk Festival, in 2002, whilst performing as a member of Scots-Irish quintet Malinky. Herons are my familiars. Either I’ve been one before or I’m heading there before too long!
  10. The Good Years A setting of a poem by Edwin Morgan, who, until his death in 2010, was formally recognised as our national “Makar” (poet laureate). The song first appeared on a wonderful CD called “Ballads of the Book” (Chemikal Underground Records), for which all the lyrics were contributed by esteemed Scottish poets and novelists.
  11. Terminal Star Whilst studying history and philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, during my teens, I took an option in Astronomy. And so my degree certificate says I minored in Physics! I’m fascinated by the fact that our night sky is itself a map of everything since time itself began.

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CD, MP3