Katy Carr – Paszport (Deluce)
Alt folk singer-songwriter Carr’s last album, Coquette, was a concept work inspired by stories from 40s Britain, France, Germany and Poland. This, her latest, also takes the concept route but with a rather more personal slant. Polish on her mother’s side, Carr has chosen to explore the nation’s WWII’s experience, paying homage to the soldiers and pilots (Carr herself once flew for the RAF) who fought for independence only to see their country absorbed by the Soviet Union.
Variously sung in English and Polish (sometimes both within the same song), the melodies and song structures are firmly influenced by the folk music of her heritage, collaborators including a Polish choir, soldiers and operatic tenor Wojciech Wentura who takes the opera singer role on Alicja, its music dedicated to and in the style of Chopin.
The album itself is inspired by and dedicated to the 92-year-old Kazik Piechowki (briefly heard talking to her at the start), who escaped from Auschwitz in the Commandant’s car disguised as a member of the SS, a story that fuels the urgent tension of opening number Kommander’s Car. There are several other specific references: Wojtek, with its pizzicato strings, is a pining for home song inspired by the brown bear mascot of a Polish artillery supply company, the equally traditional Eastern European folk styled Red Red Rose draws on the mass transportation of 1.8 million Poles to Siberia, and the lurching ‘Mala’ Little Flower about Irena Opdyke, a Polish Catholic who saved the lives of twelve Jews and became a leading resistance fighter.
Elsewhere, the anthem-like Motylek pays tribute to the Polish pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain; Weronika recalls the legend of St Veronica who offered her veil to Christ to wipe away his sweat as he carried the cross, an image of his face supposedly then imprinted upon it; Black Hair, Green Eyes is a straightforward love song, featuring cellist Francesa Ter-Berg with Carr’s voice soaring up and down the scales while Travelling To You is similar outpouring of the heart, but this time for a country to which its political exiles could never return.
Three numbers are translations from the Polish, the violin accompanied The Partisan’s Lullaby written in 1943 with a resistance fighter lamenting he cannot leave the forest to see his girl, the traditional Oh My Rosemary telling of a young boy becoming a soldier, and the title track itself, an assertion of identity by the poet Jerzy Harasymowicz. Partisans and the fight for freedom are also the subject of bubbling tuba Slivovitz bar singalong Chodzmym Paryzanci!
With its English folk feel, At The Weymouth Pine Tree House seems at a tangent to the central concept in its salute the Biodiversity Academy in Wejmutka, but is essentially at one with the celebration of the country and its people so passionately honoured in this album. Of specialist interest perhaps, but definitely worth a trip.
Mike Davies November 2012