Folk albums of the year: The Old Dance School | Karine Polwart | Kathleen MacInnes | Lau | Duncan Chisholm

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Norman Chalmers reviews the best of this year’s folk music releases.

The Old Dance School

Chasing The Light

Transition Records

The most accomplished current band from south of the Border, The Old Dance School could teach our current crop of young Scots musicians a thing or two about tight ensemble performance and imaginative musicality. With swinging bass, guitar and drums under trumpet allied to the three-women, twin fiddle and flute, instrumental and vocal emotional centre, their latest album is ear-bending, radiant and recorded in the Gorbals.

Karine Polwart

Traces

Hegri Music

The Scottish songwriter and vocalist gently but powerfully mauled masculine authority, militarism and the self-centred ethos of our age on her humanist, thought-provoking new album.

Kathleen MacInnes

Og Mhadainn Shamhraidh

Greentrax

Now resident in Glasgow, the brilliant Uist singer and actress Kathleen MacInnes breathed dramatic life into Gaelic song with a unique, intimate vocal tone and personality. Her vocally and instrumentally accompanied Og Mhadainn Shamhraidh (Summer Dawn) was centred in the celebration of the late, powerful generation of women in her family.

Lau

Race The Loser

Reveal Records

Starting on fiddle, accordion and guitar, the three men of Lau took their continuously experimental exploration of pan-British music to a new, revered American producer and changed sound and textures. As in the first track’s handclap percussion, the result was kept stirring through innovation and surprise.

Duncan Chisholm

Affric

Copperfish Records

The Scottish master fiddler Duncan Chisholm closed his auto-geographical trilogy with this stately album, which captured a deep essence of his remote Highland homeland in heart-stopping beauty.