A favourite of the BBC2 Folk Awards for over a decade, mercury nominated and with seven solo studio albums under her belt, Kate Rusby’s credentials are impressive. But as she openly admits, the past few years have been far from plain sailing. A divorce from producer husband John McCusker in 2006, the death of two close relatives and the birth of her first daughter, Daisy Delia, in late 2009 have thrown up many new challenges for the Yorkshire born singer.
However, on stage tonight she seems to have weathered these personal storms, unaware of her own accomplishment and the level of her success. With a refreshed band line up and a new album currently in production, she surely reaffirms herself as the first lady of British folk. Opening with the title track from her most successful studio album to date, Awkward Annie, it is instantly clear that Kate’s pure vocals encourage little to be tampered with. Despite struggling sometimes in the higher range, her angelic tone is enough to lull the usher into a peaceful slumber approaching the interval.
As she rambles through numbers such as The Old Man or William and Davy it is clear that her catalogue has been lovingly chosen and she reflects this with a witty introduction to her tales, granting each one equal stature. Whilst almost childlike and innocent in her enthusiasm, it seems musically she has come of age and as she reels through her impressive repertoire, that she has cemented herself as a songwriter too. Even self penned tracks such as Wandering Soul feel worn in, as if they also have been stumbled across in an old story book.
Although it is partner Damien O’Kane, previously of Flook fame, who achieves the highest rise out of the audience with his performance of two tracks, including the title from his recently released solo album Summer Hill, this detracted little from Kate’s showcase. High calibre support aside, the stand out track of the evening comes in her reworking of Nic Jones’ Drowned Lovers and it seems if tonight is anything to go by, Kate is set to remain the mainstay of British folk for the foreseeable future.
Photograph by Lieve Boussauw