Category: Kate Rusby

Kate Rusby Covers:
Iris Dement, Richard Thompson, The Kinks, Suzanne Vega and more!
(plus Holiday Coverfolk from Kate’s newly rereleased holiday album Sweet Bells)

December 8th, 2009 — 09:58 pm

Oddly, I was introduced to the music of Kate Rusby through my own blog, via a guest post during my first summer hiatus way back in 2007. Since then, I’ve fallen completely in love with the gentle songstress; this time of year, especially, her clear sweet voice and that Yorkshire accent cut through the chill like a searchlight to the heart.

Exceptionally well-known in her native land, but much less so in the US — perhaps because, as the title track to her 2005 album The Girl Who Wouldn’t Fly explains, Kate is afraid to fly, and thus does not tour much, if at all, on this side of the pond — Rusby tends towards a traditional folk of the old-school type, grounded in the old ballads and songstyles of her native Britain. Each of her eight solo albums, a mere decade of output, features a rich combination of such ageless folk songs, and a scattering of contemporary folk covers and timeless originals which share the same trope and lyrical sentiment.

But this is no mere tradfolk, and Kate is no mere interpreter of song. Her arrangements may be sparse and simple, but they are also deliberate, and delicately nuanced; the 36 year old singer-songwriter may be grounded in life, but the deceptive potency of her pure voice and the ring of her high-strung guitar contain a power beyond description, setting songs of all origin to lift off and soar in all cases, whether slow and solo or tempered by a touch of the squeezebox drone, the pipe and brass, the brushed drum, the low bass, or the full folkrock package of, say, her take on The Kinks.

The result is incredible: deeply personal, highly emotional, proud against the full winds of change, and yet somehow both delicate and universal enough to startle even the most jaded tradfolk or folkpop listener into a second look, and then a lifetime of delight. It’s no wonder she is such a sought after collaborator and guest vocalist in her native land; no wonder that she is so celebrated, though surely not enough, at least on our end of the ocean.

Kate’s newest album is actually a re-release of her 2008 holiday CD Sweet Bells, which – in keeping with her eye on the past – offers stellar interpretations of traditional Yorkshire Christmas carols straight out of storybook England, filtered through regional tradfolk instrumentation and that utterly lovely voice. Today, in a nod to the season, we offer a choice cut from that seasonal delight, plus a mix of covers both contemporary and traditional from Rusby’s prolific songbook; if you like what you hear, head over to Kate Rusby’s own storefront to pick up the full catalog, and a second set for stocking stuffers.

Before fame arrived at her doorstep, Rusby released several collaborative albums, including a short-lived stint as lead vocalist for The Poozies. Today’s bonus tracks come from her early collaboration with friend and fellow Barnsley folksinger Kathryn Roberts, a marvelous gem which features nary an original song; though the production is less precise than in her later solo work, the songs reveal a confidence that would serve Rusby well on her way to fame. Here’s two favorites from the disc:

Cover Lay Down posts new features and coverfolk sets every Sunday, Wednesday, and the occasional otherday. Coming this weekend: kidfolk for the holidays, and for the fun of it.

1,199 comments » | Holiday Coverfolk, Kate Rusby

Covered in Folk: The Kinks (Ana Egge, Kate Rusby, Trappers Cabin, Sia, Old 97′s and more)

August 30th, 2008 — 10:08 pm

For most of my life, The Kinks have been one of those bands that other kinds of people listened to. That I respect these people, and appreciate their inclusion of the odd Kinks tune on mixtapes and playlists, is kind of moot; the end result has been that while I like the poppy sound The Kinks bring to the table, it’s the kind of music I accept as background music, enjoyable but already there, part of that diverse mix of sound which fills the air around us. And the continued prominence of Kinks classics on soundtracks and classic rock radio has served the occasional itch in a surprisingly timely manner, leaving me perfectly happy to let the songs come up through the environment, rather than seeking them out.

There’s a hole in my musical education that swallows the British Invasion wholesale, in fact. Some of this is purely an issue of age and experience — growing up in the seventies in a household centered on Blues, Soul, and the American Folk Revival, I heard plenty of music that had been influenced by the jangly guitars and quirky, almost pre-punk pop sensibility, but very little of the actual Brits themselves; by the time I moved on to my own record collecting, it was the late eighties, and I was so excited by the emerging hip-hop, grunge and new folk scenes to find the time to go back and discover their musical roots.

But the more I hear The Kinks catalog done tenderly and with feeling, the more I regret missing out on developing a real love for this music. So many musicians have made real things of beauty out of The Kinks songbook that I have to assume there’s beauty to be found in the originals.

So for a while, I’ve been collecting Kinks tunes where I find them, both originals and covers, letting the bloggers I trust (that’s them on the sidebar) bring the right tracks to my attention; Divinyl sent along a few greats recently, lending fuel to the fire. And when three great covers came to my attention in the past few weeks, it seemed high time to share the best of a growing collection of tributes and covertracks from the pen of Kinks mastermind and songwriter Ray Davies.

Here, then, are Kate Rusby‘s gorgeous-voiced britfolk version of The Village Green Preservation Society, a delicate lo-fi bedroom cover of Shangrai-La from the huge collection of downloadable covers and originals at the Trappers Cabin website, and a sliding, bluesy take on Sitting in the Midday Sun from southernfolk fave Ana Egge, who is currently offering her wonderful all-covers album Lazy Days for under four bucks over at Amie Street (where the code “coverlaydown” will net new members $3 free towards your purchase). Plus a few more of my favorite, folkiest Kinks covers, just to make a proper playlist of it all.

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk content Wednesdays, Sundays, and the occasional Friday and Holiday. Coming up in the next few weeks: more old songs from new artists, one final summer folk festival preview, and yet another installment in our Single Song Sunday series. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

406 comments » | Ana Egge, Dar Williams, Kate Rusby, Mark Anthony Thompson, Mark Lanegan, Old 97's, Ray Lamontagne, The Kinks, Trappers Cabin

The Tradfolk Revival: Young Brit Femfolk with today’s guest host: Divinyl

July 18th, 2008 — 11:41 am
This post has absolutely squat to do with the picture above, but it is a feast of British folk, therefore I thought that the picture was fitting; just ignore the artist listing. I shall start with a confession – I am entirely rubbish. I am a terrible procrastinator and someone who often does things at the very last opportunity. And that is the case here. I feel slightly shame-faced tarnishing such a wonderful blog with my efforts, but honoured to have been offered the privilege, therefore I could not resist posting just a little something.

Due to time constraints and slight inebriation, I have limited this post to talking about only three of the darling dames of the very much thriving young British folk scene (hey, maybe Boyhowdy will invite me back some time to introduce a few more?!). It is my understanding that, despite these times of t’internet and music easily accessible to all, often folk music does not seem to cross borders and oceans very quickly. I am continually surprised when I converse with fellow bloggers from the other side of the pond, people I consider to be far more musically-knowledgeable than me, to hear that they are not familiar with even the ‘bigger’ names. I am here, therefore, to begin the process of rectifying that!

All of the songs included below have one common theme – they are traditional songs; songs that have been sung and loved by many over the years, that have done the rounds with folk festival crowds and back-room-of-the-pub singalongs. The particularly interesting thing, then, is these ladies’ interpretation of these well-known tunes, their very understanding of what is at the core of each song, and how they may make it their own.

First up is Kate Rusby – a charming Barnsley lass (that’s South Yorkshire FYI) with a strong northern accent, a down-to-earth attitude and a love of sea shanties and other traditional songs. Accordingly, you will often find her sweet-as-apple-pie voice singing tales of lost love, violence and death! Courtesy of parents that were in a ceilidh band, she grew up around folk music and folk music festivals.

She is perhaps my very favourite of the set, her voice almost tear-inducingly beautiful. She is also immensely likable and is absolutely brilliant live if you should ever have the chance – I have seen her twice to date, and her performance was astounding on both occasions. Rusby has truly mastered the art of inter-song banter and the whole stage presence conundrum, which I believe to be almost as important as the music itself in a live environment.

Rusby is getting on a bit now, in terms of this theme, at age 34 (ha!), but started out waaay back in 1995 and has since released eight solo albums, in addition to releases with Kathryn Roberts and her former band The Poozies. She has garnered much praise from the British press at large, and even more in folk circles, resulting in her receipt of four BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (including Folk Singer of the Year in 2000). She was also nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 1999 – a contest that spans many genres and that often makes highly influential, independent choices. Here she is with a sea shanty and one about fighting a dragon!
The Wild Goose – Kate Rusby (trad.)
(from Sleepless)
Sir Eglamore – Kate Rusby (trad. arr. Kate Rusby)
(from Hourglass)

Ruth Notman was only 18 years old when she released her debut album, Threads, last year, which only made it all the more impressive. Less well known, to date, than the others in this post, she is definitely a name to watch. Notman hails from Nottingham, in the Midlands of England and started performing in folk clubs in her home county and neighbouring Derbyshire at the age of 13.

The most consummate thing about the traditional songs (and cover songs in general) on her album is her interpretation; her arrangements evidence a wonderful musical maturity and a solid understanding of composition and tune. Yet just as tenable is that 18 year old spirit – despite the tradsong, you can hear that this is a young woman equally familiar with modern music and pop sensibilities; someone who knows Independent Woman and other such fluff, just like her peers. Oh, and she is also a cracking pianist (and multi-instrumentalist).
She, too, has been noticed by the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards people, reaching the final of the Young Folk Award in 2006.
Present here is the usual happy folk subject matter of neglect, beating, and suicidal ideation! Fause Fause is one that you can also hear by the likes of Kris Drever and Kathryn Tickell.
Still I Love Him – Ruth Notman (trad. arr. Ruth Notman)
(from Threads)

Fause Fause – Ruth Notman (trad. arr. Ruth Notman)
(from Threads)

Another lass with a love, and sound understanding, of the traditional is Northumberland’s Rachel Unthank, who has released two albums with The Winterset – her sister Becky (who actually appears as a co-lead vocalist), Jackie Oates (the viola player who was replaced last year by Niopha Keegan) and Belinda O’Hooley (who is also impressive as a solo artist and is a stunning pianist).

A lot of the music that Unthank delivers is very closely tied to the region – a region which has a very strong folk identity, with Northumbrian dialect and tales of border battles with Scotland. It is also startlingly untrendy, in the very best possible way…this is honest, unfussy, bare bones tradfolk. In fact, Rachel and Becky Unthank started out performing as an a capella duo. But tradfolk does not tell the whole story. For example, there is a Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) cover on their second album The Bairns (which is even better than their debut Cruel Sister…just the kind of trend we like to see!). Just to clue you in, “bairn” is Northumbrian and Scottish dialect for ‘child’.
Again the folkies at the BBC are impressed, and she/they were nominated for three awards just this year, winning the Horizon Award. Rachel, pre-Winterset, also reached the finals of the Young Folk Award. Do you see a theme starting to develop here?

Like many, the Unthank sisters come from musical stock – their parents are both singers, and father George is part of North East folk group The Keelers. I love that the music they choose is so intrinsically about the region in which I live. The first track below is an amalgamation of several traditional songs (The Wedding O’Blythe, When the Tide Comes In, Blue’s Gaen Oot O’the Fashion, The Lad With the Trousers On, The Sailors Are All at the Bar). Rachel, in the liner notes of the album on which it appears says,

“The songs provide a snap shot from a period of history when the shores of the River Tyne saw the hectic comings and goings of press gangs, soldiers, sailors and tall ships.”
Blue Bleezing Bling Drunk is, on the other hand, a good old domestic violence ditty! It is also, apparently, one of the very first songs to depict a drunken Scottish woman…I’m sure that there must have been many more since!
Blue’s Gaen Oot O’the Fashion – Rachel Unthank and The Winterset (trad.)
(from The Bairns)

Blue Bleezing Blind Drunk – Rachel Unthank and The Winterset (trad./Belle Stewart)
(from The Bairns)

Divinyl holds forth on a broad assortment of music from folk to Feist at Ceci N’est Pas un Blog. She is also the sole female member of the collaborative at Star Maker Machine.

615 comments » | Guest Posts, Kate Rusby, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, Ruth Notman