Sunday, November 1, 2009

These are the days I live now: Listening to Kate Rusby

"I am wandering now
Through this world
I am wandering, wandering
These are the days I live now"
Kate Rusby Planets

Along with June Tabor Kate Rusby is one the great contemporary singers of the British folk tradition. Rusby is one of the younger generation singers able to reinvent traditional British folk songs from a modern perspective and write contemporary songs that bridge older and new styles.

I have been a fan of Rusby's for a long time, particularly the albums Underneath the Stars and Sleepless. Her 2007 CD Awkward Annie is her 6th CD and one of her finest. She mixes traditional British folk songs and self penned originals. Five of the songs are her own compositions and the remainder are arrangements of traditional British folk songs.

Kate Rusby is a magnificent singer. A voice of such immediacy, richness and sweetness combined with purity and strength. Rusby, like June Tabor, is one of the finest female singers of slow ballads I have heard. Her interpretation of the traditional song Blooming Heather (Mountain Thyme) on which she is joined by the fine voices of John Hudson and Eddi Reader is just haunting. A reminder of the power and beauty of the human voice.

The supporting instrumentation is largely acoustic and sparse- mandolin, flute, banjo, guitar, violin and fiddle, accordion, with some strings and piano- and her albums always feature musicians of great skill and versatility.

Like many of my favourite albums this CD has a strong melancholy feel. The song Bitter Boy is a poignant song about lost love. On the liner notes Rusby writes that it was a tough CD to make. The CD emerged out of a period of personal grief, loss and heartbreak from the deaths of close friends and the end of an intimate relationship. It is certainly a melancholic CD, but it is the humanity at the heart of Rusby's work that shines through.
"But I will rise and I will sing
Until the day I can't conceal it,
Because I hold the saddest song
And wish to God I cannot feel it"
Kate Rusby The Bitter Boy

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