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KATE RUSBY - 30 : Happy Returns 

KATE RUSBY - 30 : Happy Returns 
Pure Records PRCD73 

What’s not to like? A Kate Rusby album guarantees a smorgasbord of true delight for the ears, mind and soul. I am more than happy to report that 30 : Happy Returns fulfils our expectations in spades. The production values are what we have come to expect: perfectly balanced musical accompaniment, tremendous lyrics and, of course, at the centre of it all Kate’s wonderful, mesmeric, harmonic vocal.

Kate began her public musical journey and career at the Holmfirth Festival in 1992 after which she stated: “never again!” Fortunately for us this was not to be and the rest, as they say, is history. This album is an ideal celebration of the first 30 years of this remarkable talent and artist. In so many ways 30 : Happy Returns is a perfect pause in her extraordinary musical career as there is still so, so much to look forward to. Consisting of a generous 15 tracks and a bonus track, the content of the CD has been selected from her prodigious back catalogue of superb albums. How you would even begin to whittle down her remarkable contribution to fine music is beyond me, but she has certainly achieved it. To attain a sense of freshness and of belonging together as a homogeneous collection, the tracks have been re-recorded and re-invigorated by Kate and her “producer, band leader and husband, the multitalented Damien O’Kane.” This succinctly brings me to my next point, the ever-generous Kate has also partnered her vocal talent with a considerable number of other prestigious artists. The Ladysmith Black Mambazo ensemble creates a formidable presence on the opening track, We Will Sing. Other artists include Richard Hawley, Darlingside, KT Tunstall, Sarah Jarosz, Sam Kelly, Dan Tyminski and Beth Nielson Chapman.

Do I have a favourite track to wax lyrical about? Well as I have said the first track is pretty special, No Names is rather good, Fairest Of All Yarrow is splendid, Cruel is heart wrenching, Let Me Be with KT Tunstall is a vocal marriage made in heaven… Where am I going with this? Oh, to hell with it, you know what, every track is sublime in every detail!

30 : Happy Returns is an album that will appeal to all tastes. If you are a newcomer to Kate’s work, lucky you, as there is so much to discover. If you are an old hand and an enthusiastic supporter of the Kate Rusby phenomena, then there is so much to re-discover. 10 out of 10 Kate for giving us a fantastic album!

John Oke Bartlett


This review appeared in Issue 145 of The Living Tradition magazine