Reviews

FATEA Magazine – Reviewed by David Kidman – 4th July 2017

Back in November 2015, I reviewed a release by Cumbria-based singer-songwriter Karin, who at that time was performing in a duo with Rosie Clegg. Their EP was one of those “how come I’ve never come across this artist before?” situations, for even then Karin had already chalked up a 30-year CV that’s taken her across many musical genres from jazz, blues and cabaret, and latterly to English and American folk. There were four of Karin’s self-penned songs on that EP, but this new release is a full-length showcase that unveils her latest collaborative venture, a duo with well-travelled singer-guitarist-songwriter Karl Robins, who’s originally from Leeds but is now based near Berwick Upon Tweed. Karin clearly has a knack for choosing ideal musical partners, for their voices fit together extremely well, while Karl’s keen musicianship and seriously accomplished style of playing (guitar, cuatro) complements the mood and subject-matter of her songs.

Generally, Karin’s songs are inspired by personal reflections and experiences, the messages to be derived from which are often cleverly couched within stories which have a definitive ring of truth but which are told with a refreshing unsentimentality.. A majority of the songs concern the plight of a woman trapped in a familiar universal or eternal scenario: for instance, a single parent who’s forced to go on the streets (Hey Mister); the unplanned journey of a young girl seeking discovery (Nowhere); a young child’s memory of watching her mother hard at work (My Mother’s Hands); a woman left behind to raise her child after her man goes off to war (Take Me Away); and the inspirational strength of a woman suffering domestic violence (Strong In The Broken Places). The latter is one of just two of Karin’s songs revisited from the EP; the other is Anne Naysmith, the poignant tale of a former concert pianist who fell on hard times. Another of the album’s most memorable songs is the eerie There’s That Woman, while Karin’s creative imagination is given full rein on the fantasy The Stones Of Callenish and her condemnation of the treatment of human beings by their peers is stirringly voiced on Rights Of Man.

Strong though Karin’s own songs are, though, she and Karl also show considerable dramatic flair and imagination in their renditions of the disc’s two traditional items, the title track and Blackwaterside. Throughout the album, the instrumental arrangements are kept simple, while Mike Harding adds mandolin magic to four tracks and Frank Meadley plays bodhrán on two, and Amanda Martin contributes harmony vocals on one item. As an aside perhaps, it’s worth pointing out that it may be indicative that although the majority of tracks last upwards of four minutes, the listener doesn’t feel the passage of time.

Finally – and very importantly, the album gains possibly its most striking sense of cohesive identity by Karin’s powerful singing, her fine diction coupled with a dynamic and assured approach to phrasing; but, I would emphasise, that’s not to undersell Karl’s equally assured contribution to the duo’s collaborative music-making.

 

Playlist for The Mike Harding Folk Show, Podcast 220, 12th March 2017, writes the following regarding the song ‘Hey Mister’ – ‘This IMHO is one of the best new songs of the last decade’

Any of you who have been listening to this show for any length of time or any of you who went to The Costa Del Folk Festivals in Portugal or Spain, will know the name Karin Grandal-Park. She’s a great singer, fantastic voice and she is also a really fine songwriter. What I like about her songs is that she tells us stories. Every one of her songs has got a message, but its wrapped up within a story. Well she’s just teamed up with Karl Robins another well known singer around the North of England and a great guitarist. They’ve produced an absolutely superb album called ‘The snows they melt the soonest’ which has just come hot off the presses. I’ve got a rough mix of one of the tracks, I am going to play you now. Karin’s got an incredibly strong voice, and Karl is a terrific guitarist.

This song is I think just stunning, its bleak, its powerful, tells a true story. So common a story I would have thought nowadays. A single parent, a women who to keep her kids fed and clothed goes on the streets. Its called ‘Hey Mister’ – Mike Harding introduction on his show The Mike Harding Folk Show, Podcast 220, 12th March 2017

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In an email to Karin and Karl on 18th April 2017 – Geoff Lakeman wrote

Dear Karin and Karl – I welcomed Sean and Kathryn back from the first leg of their mammoth Spring tour yesterday and was thrilled to be given the gift of your CD. I’d already read a couple of great reviews of the album but had not got around to buying it yet- so you have been kind to save a struggling old pensioner a few bob. I played your album ( twice) last night when I drove across Dartmoor for the monthly session at South Zeal with ` Mark Bazeley and the Dartmoor Pixie clan. I recognised you , of course, from seeing you in Settle – moist memorable- (or did I mean ‘ most’?) especially that “Hey Mister” track. Some lovely original songs, great string moments and the blend of voices is so professional. Karin – your voice is most unusual, in that you deliver much of the material in the lower register…a special quality to that timbre. Reminds me very much of the Portuguese Fado singer, Mariza. If you have not heard (of) her do look her up. You share that same depth of emotion in your voices. So good to be able to tell people I’ve shared a stage with you – and tell that Karl bloke he’s too clever by ‘arf on his giant ukulele thingy.
“Let the music keep your spirits high.
Geoff

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REVIEW by Charlie Elland of FOLKWORDS 24th April 2017

‘The snows they melt the soonest’ is an album that quietly creeps up on you, and then steadily, you become increasingly absorbed by its penetratingly poignant narratives.  And as is the way with all good story-songs, outstanding singers do more than deliver the words, they live them and in doing so carry you along with them into depths of feeling.   Listening to singer songwriter Karin Grandal-Park, one half of a duo with Karl Robins, sing the songs on ‘The snows they melt the soonest’ you experience the feelings ‘living’ within the songs.

Grandal-Park and Robins set their music firmly in the folk tradition but innovate along the way, each song reaching out, each with an uncanny ability to express tangible emotion.  Personal stories sit alongside wider reflections, and each strike home.  There are ten original compositions with a couple of trads added for good measure and the appeal comes from originals like the harrowing ‘Anne Naysmith’, the subjective ‘Dance of Life’, ‘The Stones of Callenish’, ‘Strong in the Broken Places’, and the searing truths of ‘My Mothers Hands’.

‘The snows they melt the soonest’ is a tender and gentle album that you will enjoy

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Greg Hancock wrote

Really love the CD! Geoff is right – there is something of the fado singer in the intensity of Karin’s resonant voice. The song writing is first rate and right up my street – stories and portraits etc. And Karl, your playing and harmonies make me green with envy! Lovely stuff. XX