Friday 8 August 2014


CD Review


According to the Yorkshire Tea-loving Kate Rusby her house is haunted and she wrote the title track, which is the last one on the album, at the piano in the room where the ghost makes its presence felt.

Kate Rusby's new album
Whether you believe this revelation from the Barnsley Nightingale is up to you but thankfully her talent, wonderfully feminine and silky tones are more corporeal and therefore able to be enjoyed by those of us who are not psychic.
It's been two years since Rusby brought out her last album celebrating 20 years of bringing the traditional songs of England and specifically God's own county Yorkshire to her enthusiastic fan base.
Ghost had a double launch first at Rusby's own Underneath the Stars Festival and then at the Cambridge Folk Festival which celebrated its 50th year. She also got her collar felt by Mark Radcliffe for his Radio2 Folk Show while there.
Rusby is all about the voice, it's distinctive, strong yet extremely feminine and has the odd gem when her Yorkshire twang pops out like Eliza Doolittle forgetting her deportment. Ghost is great mix of her interpretive work on traditional tunes and her self-penned offerings, which do tend to step out of the traditional circle if you listen quite closely.
From the opener Outlandish Knight which she put together with her Northern Irish husband Damien O'Kane, they also produced the album between them, you get this gentle introduction to that angelic tone which is uniquely Rusby.
This gives way to the much gentler, The Youthful Boy, and Rusby's breathy tones pour like melted chocolate over the senses. Here Rusby has tweaked the words and added the tune to the traditional song which has some lovely and subtle banjo playing, yes there is such a thing, from Ron Block.
We Will Sing is the first of Rusby's own creations on the album and it's another of those seasonal songs which charts the changing face of nature which she seems to favour.
Kate Rusby
Parts of it does have a certain festive feel so don't be surprised if it doesn't turn up on her Christmas shows later in the year. Rusby does write uncomplicated but remarkably descriptive lyrics which are the equivalent of brush strokes to an artist.
What adds a really indulgent melodic strand to the song is the accordion of Julian Sutton and the beautifully light and dancing sound of Mike McGoldrick's flute.
It's McGoldrick, the Capercaille member, who opens the next track, The Bonnie Bairns which is a beautifully haunting ballad, pretty appropriate for an album called Ghost.
Here Rusby is at her breathy, silky best and she really is like the legendary siren, once you catch the scent of her voice you are hooked and the more you listen the less you want to drag yourself away from it.
The first of the jaunty songs on the album is Three Jolly Fishermen done to a traditional tune and essentially it's what folk music is.
A catchy tune, simple lyrics, memorable cadence and themes which just speak of life as it is and there are few who tell the story in song better than Rusby.
One of the wonderful things about Rusby's songs is if you look out of the window, or drive to the country you can see what she is singing about. This is a tale of lost love using the analogy of nature and the passing seasons and while the singing and tune is light Rusby's emotive voice conveys certain melancholy throughout.
Martin Said is a gentle toe-tapper and is given a staccato rhythm by O'Kane's quick strumming. It has a nursery rhyme feel to it and you can imagine Rusby's children will know something like this before they can recite the alphabet.
Another of Rusby's own creations is After This, which is another slow ballad where Rusby's voice blends beautifully with the strings employed on this track, not least of which is the evocative sound of the cello played by Ben Trigg.
Damien O'Kane
If there is one song on this album which sums up Rusby it's The Magic Penny. It's hard to think of anything more traditional both in the cantering tune and the use of nostalgic words such as swagger, rapier and countenance, it's the sort of song which should be the musical equivalent of scratching a cat under the jaw for every dyed-in-the-wool, from Yorkshire sheep of course, folkie. To put the icing on the cake there is some gorgeous picking on guitar from O'Kane.
The Night Visit is the only track which doesn't have Rusby's prints all over it, the words are traditional and the tune is by the late Scotsman Tony Cuffe.
It's another of those love songs where you are never quite sure whether the lover is visiting for real or in a dream. The ballad is given a Celtic and ethereal feel by McGoldrick's beautifully subtle whistle playing.
The penultimate track is one of those enthralling narrative songs which tells the tale of the Silly Old Man who is canny enough to outwit a highwayman while on a journey to pay his rent. It's a great story and made all the more enjoyable for being told in Rusby's own inimitable way.
With an album called Ghost there had to be a haunting song and the last track is it. It's simply Rusby's soft tones and her precisely accented piano playing.
Ghost is a lovely song and it is Rusby moving a hair's width away from the traditional but there are times, especially on the chorus, where is it does feel a little laboured.
This album has some lovely traditional songs which are brought to life by Rusby's voice and mixed with her own efforts, which always seem to step a toe out of the folk zone, it is a thoroughly enjoyable album.
Rusby is fortunate though in that it doesn't really matter what she sings, only that she does.

Ghost is out now on Pure Records

You can catch Kate Rusby on October 5 at Derby Folk Festival, on December 11 at Symphony Hall, Birmingham or at the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham on December 21.

You can find a fascinating documentary about Kate Rusby on this link

The Mike Harding Folk Show

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