Underneath the Stars
Daily Telegraph, Stars
The pint-sized Barnsley songbird is still the best that English folk music has to offer, and this is a minor masterpiece without being her finest CD. Her husband, John McCusker, contributed enormously as producer and musician, while Rusby’s progress as a writer was a bonus.
Folk by Colin Randall
The second song on Rusby’s new record carries the footnote on the CD sleeve: ‘These words were written in the 1800s. I gave them a tune a few years ago. ‘Little could sum up Rusby’s peerless ability for reviving words and music lost to history, and making curiously moving connections between ancient and modern. Rusby also broadens the scope of her own writing, with five original songs. Not overly a ‘folk’ album, Underneath the Stars is buoyed by a new delicacy of detail as much as it s by Rusby’s exquisite voice. Another quiet triumph.
As previous gems. But with such a distinctive style, short of embracing hip hop this largely unavoidable. Part traditional ‘ including a superb White Cockade ‘ part her own songs and part a mix of the two, it features her most accomplished arrangements to date with a classy array of backing musicians and even a Simon Fowler (of Ocean Colour Scene) guest vocal. Still a thing of beauty.
Daily Telegraph, Stars
Now nudging 30, English folk music’s brightest talent is beginning to explore new musical territory, with just enough stealth to ensure that relatively few of her admirers will realize what is happening until they consult the liner notes. Kate Rusby’s stock-in-trade over the past 10 years has been out-and-out traditional balladry, covering the familiar ground of broken lives and love in songs learnt from her parents or other musicians or books.
Perhaps Rusby’s recent encounter with the big screen, composing and performing the soundtrack for the romantic comedy Heartlands and even making a cameo appearance, has inspired her to experiment. Certainly, Underneath the Stars confirms her gradual emergence as a writer, with four convincing new songs and the traditional lyrics of five more set to her own melodies.
But the developments are subtle, each piece of original work nestling comfortably with the older material. So while Rusby came up with a fresh tune for The Goodman, a variation of Seven Drunken Nights (which the Dubliners took into the pop charts before she was even born, and of which she was apparently unaware), it sounds as if it might have been plundered from the English Folk Dance and Song Library. Even the title track, essentially a modern love song, feels at first like something that has been around for hundreds of years.
Rusby, whose self-effacing stage presence conceals passionate and assured professionalism, sings with the superb timing and lilting, northern-accented charm that has won her so much acclaim beyond the folk ghetto. Ian Carr, Michael McGoldrick and a contingent from Grimethorpe Colliery Band are among the tip-top musicians helping out, while the towering skills of Rusby’s husband John McCusker, both as producer and on various instruments, are evident throughout this gentle masterpiece.
First studio work for a couple of years from this splendid roots singer song-writer. This gorgeous selection features a number of new compositions alongside renditions of traditional material and it is a joy to listen to. Rusby is still improving as a performer and she now has the band to bolster her ever-growing reputation.
More of the same from folk’s most consistent young star.
Unlike Eliza Carthy, Rusby seems disinclined to expand her natural constituency beyond the borders of folk’s lovers, blind harpers and press gangs. No matter. As her readings of Sweet Williams Ghost and The White Cockade demonstrate, there’s plenty left in the tank. Delivered in her take-it or leave-it Barnsley tones, this is another sweet yet earthy collection where originals like Young James nestle comfortable among the real things.