Sunday, April 06, 2008

Little Lights

The 'Kate Rusby' poster has been in the side-bar here for some weeks now and here is why.
Pop is back in fashion, as is live music of all kinds, but perhaps the most surprising rise is that of folk music albeit in myriad disguises. In some cases ( KT Tunstall, Amy Macdonald, Sons and Daughters and many others) it is merely one influence amongst many but still an important one.
They are also all artists from Scotland but English folk certainly hasn't been left behind and its rise is in great measure due to Kate Rusby.

She was formerly associated with both The Poozies and The Battlefield Band but it is as a solo artist she has really made things happen. She has recently released her sixth solo album in barely ten years and all are released on her own label Pure Records. They are all very good albums but if I had to name one that really made a difference it would have to be Little Lights (2001). This was, at least to me, the one on which her original compositions came to at least equal the wonderful versions of traditional folk songs that accompany them and, needless to say she ran away with the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for best new song.

The new compositions on this album alone include I Courted a Sailor, William and Davy, Who Will Sing Me Lullabies? and My Young Man this last being about her grandfather who was a coal miner in Barnsley. They are all new songs rooted firmly in old tradition; this is what I need to say to explain how she differs from (for want of a better phrase) nu-folk artists, and here I have Laura Marling (artist and lyrics) in mind, but equally it applies to many others. There is nothing even slightly wrong with the traditional tracks on here and, just to add some more icing, there is a fantastic cover of Richard Thompson's Withered and Died.
If you haven't heard anything by Kate Rusby before then this is probably a good place to start; if you are wondering what modern English folk is about then this is a splendid introduction to it. If you wonder what it might be like performed live then you can also get a taste of that without leaving home.

The DVD is Kate Rusby - livefromleeds, recorded at Leeds City Hall and released in 2004.
This image, which I scanned just now, is sadly rather lacking in detail. I'll try and do better soon but for now I'll say it is readily available from (£8.98, approximately €13, US $20) but in the US you might need a multi-region DVD player with a PAL/NTSC converter. I'm not sure if is available as yet in NTSC/DVD Region 1 format; it might be but I thought I'd mention the possible pitfalls just in case. I'll try and review all her other albums quite soon, including Underneath The Stars (2003) and The Girl Who Couldn't Fly (2005), but the latest is this...

...Awkward Annie (2007).

Note added 12 April 2008:
The bad news is that this album has not yet had a proper US release. The good news is that is that will have one on 04/15/2008 so you now don't have to wait much longer to hear how good it is!

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