This is the kind of folk music that I adore. Peeking behind the nets into the deep dark crevices of someone else’s lonely life, like some kind of unwilling voyeur. Viewing the damp decay from behind the rose arch. Standing aloof from their squalid mess or tangled lies. Whilst maintaining a safe distance, in the sunlight. Ready to walk away.
Everything on the surface – in the folk world that Kate evokes- looks bright and dandy (keeping up appearances) but scratch beneath the surface and things look pretty bleak. Mercury prize winning Kate is the Queen of this lunatic yet mesmerising landscape.
For example her ‘poor heart hallows and crys’ on the lament of ‘The White Cockade’ – with its simple yet effective stringy intro (Malcolm Stitt on guitar and bouzouki) followed by those sweet chiming vocals, charmingly accompanied by slender notes from Julian Sutton on melodeon, and sheets of shiny chords from Kate, that help to paint a remotely picturesque world, where the jaunty and cheerful is often too quickly replaced by the grotesque or the miserable.
The enthralled throng at the Mayfest Acoustic Festival (Uttoxeter 2010) also enjoyed the ballad of ‘William and Davy’ – perfect twins who fall in love with the same girl. The intricacies of this song were played with such infectious vitality and note-perfect confidence that you felt that you were quite unprepared for the not so ‘happy-ever-after’ ending – but it was a deliciously exciting journey getting to that final scene, and gained Kate a storm of applause from the delighted crowd.
‘High on the Hog’ had a catchy singsong chorus and this was followed by a new song, the contextually appropriate ‘Green Fields’ which had an authentic twanging bass and contained the kind attractive of Celtic virtuosity in the musical background that made me just want to get up and jig, yet without distracting from Kate’s warm and clear voice.
After ‘the boys in the band’ showed off their musical prowess by knocking out some admirable ‘tunes’ for the fiesty festival goers – Kate returned with the masterpiece ‘The Drowned Lovers’ which she described as a ‘mini film’ with a wild horse, a chase scene, action scenes and, of course, the love interest. This gorgeous songs sums up the Kate Rusby sentiment. A variety of folklore characters, all convincingly portrayed within beautifully created musical environments, tunes that are playful and humorous at times are always accomplished – yet can turn dark and breathtakingly emotive in a single step. And that passionate voice of Kate – marvellously translucent – regal and glorious in those peaks, yet sensitive and fragile in the lows.
All this is given the hearty electric folk treatment that we have come to expect from modern folk music bands, but without breaking too many traditional boundaries. The result is a heartwarming, sincere and truly entertaining folk experience.