I first heard Kate Rusby singing on Jim Lloyd’s BBC folk show many years back when I was driving to a gig and I was struck immediately by both the quality of her voice and the depth of her commitment to folk music. I can still remember her singing Sir Eglamore as I drove on through the dark night across the moors – which seemed appropriate to the song somehow.
Ever since that night I’ve been following Kate’s career, from her work with Kathryn Roberts, which produced some truly wonderful recordings, to her recent concerts and albums of Yorkshire Christmas Carols.
For more than twenty years Kate has travelled the world giving great concerts and making fine albums, giving the lie to the tired old cliché of folk music being all about fat blokes in Aran sweaters, tankards clipped to their belts and one finger in their ear, singing out of tune. There are about half-a-dozen such blokes at every festival and thousands more people that straddle the generations and the musical style. (I suspect the half-a-dozen blokes are the same ones at every festival.)
Kate, like other young performers such as Cara Dillon, the Lakeman brothers and Karine Polwart, has brought folk music to a younger audience and enabled them to feel that it is very much their music, something that they too can do.
She is a great communicator and a great performer and as well as producing many of her own albums she recorded the theme music for Billy Connolly’s World Tour of New Zealand and also recorded a version of The Kinks Village Green Preservation Society for the TV sitcom series, Jam and Jerusalem.
As well as writing great songs like High On A Hill and Underneath The Stars – and as well as being a brilliant traditional singer (her version of The White Cockade is a classic) – Kate has always had an ear for a good song and her version of Iris Dement’s Our Town is the pure drop – it almost sounds as though it’s about Barnsley.