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KATE RUSBY - Life In A Paper Boat

KATE RUSBY - Life In A Paper Boat
Pure Records PRCD41

Like many of you, I have been listening to Kate Rusby for pretty much all of her 24 years on the folk scene, and have watched with wonder as she has turned to gold just about anything she has put her hand to. Her ‘trademark’ mix of material (traditional songs, oft-times with a sparkly new Kate Rusby tune, alongside her own songs) has been a winning formula, and not without good reason; her ability to write lyrics and tunes in the folk idiom is impressive, and her interpretations of traditional songs are also up there with the best.

On her 14th studio album, she hasn’t changed this pattern, but she has taken things down a different path with the addition of some very different instrumentation and arrangements. Here, the brass boys are missing, being replaced by a more classical sounding string quartet (apart from a brief brassy appearance in the final ‘bonus track’, Kate’s song about Barnsley super-hero Big Brave Bill) and Kate’s own Barton guitar is unmistakably quiet (and I think I miss it). There are fewer fiddles, flutes and melodeons and more electric guitars, synths and a moog. It definitely has a more experimental edge and sometimes has echoes of bands such as Sigur Ros, or even Coldplay.

But it is wonderful. The opening Benjamin Bowmaneer is classic Kate – a traditional song given a fresh, new treatment. Her own achingly beautiful Hunter Moon follows, and the transition between traditional and original is seamless. Later Kate gives us a mildly eerie version of Archie Fisher’s The Witch Of The Westmorland, and a slightly more cheery rendition of the Pace Egging Song, which sees the return of some more traditional sounding accompaniment. Throughout, she proves that she is still at the top of her game. This is a beautiful album – one which will please her many, many admirers and one which should also be well received beyond the borders of the folk world.

Fiona Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 116 of The Living Tradition magazine.