Kate Rusby celebrates twenty years in the business next year and is now something of an institution on the folk circuit. She came into a moribund scene and along with others took the music to a wider audience even achieving the distinction of a nomination in 1999's Mercury Prize for "Sleepless". She confidently demonstrated how she achieved this swing to popularity and why she remains the darling of the Radio 2 Folk Awards. With the help of Damien O'Kane, Julian Sutton,Ed Boyd,Malcolm Stitt and Kevin McGuire she amiably meandered through her past nine albums.
Following a brief set by her fellow musicians, Rusby opened with "Playing of Ball", Cobbler's Daughters and "Only Hope". This opening section also gave us "The Old Man" from the "Awkward Annie" album.Clearly, the best performance of the evening must surely have been "Who Will Sing Me Lullabies?" This poignant lament pays tribute to the Battlefield Band's lead singer Davy Steele who died in 2001. It deservedly won Rusby the 'Best Original Song' award at the 2002 Radio 2 Folk Awards.A minor revelation of the evening was discovering that the singer had contributed to the soundtrack of the film "Heartlands" . It featured her next song "Over You Now". This song was a perfect marriage of Damien O'Kane's banjo playing and Kate's mellifluous and haunting voice.
A change of tempo and she effortlessly moved to "Game of All Fours" from "The Girl Who Couldn't Fly" and "Let the Cold Wind Blow" from "Little Lights".Rusby then quit the stage briefly, leaving the band to demonstrate their ability as instrumentalists. On Kate's return, the evening concluded with "Sweet Bride", The Wishing Wife" and "Underneath the Stars".
Overall, it was a 'safe' and agreeable concert peppered by Rusby's trademark banter and well received by her knowing audience but it lacked luminosity. It could have quite easily been down to the cruel acoustics obscuring the lyrics.Then again, maybe it is time for her to move forward and somehow experiment, to give a bit of edge to her performance. If not, there is definitely a danger of Kate Rusby becoming, dare I say it, a national treasure.Edited version of review posted on the Remotegoat website.