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Album: Kate Rusby - 30: Happy Returns | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Kate Rusby - 30: Happy Returns

Album: Kate Rusby - 30: Happy Returns

A bloodless album but it will appeal to the fans

The Barnsley Nightingale marks her first 30 years

Not quite 50 and already Kate Rusby has notched up 30 years on the professional stage, an anniversary marked by a new album featuring newly recorded favourite songs from across her career on which “the Barnsley Nightingale” is joined by an array of special guests.

Among them are compatriots Richard Hawley and KT Tunstall and, from across the Atlantic, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Sarah Jarosz and the gloriously talented Darlingside. For those buying the physical album there’s also the Royal Northern Sinfonia on a “full version” of “Secret Keeper”.

The celebration opens in appropriately upbeat style with Rusby – regarded by many as Britain's first lady of folk – and Ladysmith Black Mambazo on “We Will Sing”, which feels like a declaration of defiance after the silence of Covid. It makes for an exhilarating opener, but this is not an exhilarating album. Maybe it would have taken flight had the artists been playing and recording in the same space rather than across the miles.

Despite the purity of Rusby’s voice, its surety of pitch, and despite all the awards and accolades, I find it rather bloodless and somewhat samey. Insipid even. There’s little light and shade. Just The Voice, always inhabiting much the same range, surrounded by echo but with little inflection. Pleasant but, on the whole, rather elevatorish.

Chapman’s vocal, and a good arrangement featuring an ear-catching guitar solo, gives some heft to “Walk the Road", but “Under the Stars” waffles on interminably. On “Cruel”, Darlingside’s close harmonies really make the song, which features some pleasing guitar work. “Let Me Be” takes us into pop-folk. “High On a Hill” with Jarosz, founding member of prog-folk trio I’m With Her, inhabits similar territory but is carried aloft by its jaunty rhythm and banjo.

Husband Damien O’Kane adds vocals on three tracks and, in addition to producing, plays electric, acoustic and tenor guitars and banjo. Rusby fans will enjoy the album but I'm not sure it will make her many new ones.

Liz Thomson's website

There’s little light and shade. Just The Voice, always inhabiting much the same range, surrounded by echo but with little inflection


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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