While Mortals Sleep
THE PRESS ASSOCIATION (syndicated review) Rating 9/10
Yorkshire folk singer Kate Rusby has come up with the perfect antidote to those bland Christmassy compilations: an album so genuine, you’ll be singing along and feeling festive in no time. Three years after Sweet Bells celebrated her county’s tradition of carol singing, While Mortals Sleep provides another dose of Rusby’s unique take on some Christmas staples. The bouncy opener Cranbook is While Shepherds Watched to the tune on On Ilkley Moor Bar T’at. She’s rediscovered some old folk tunes including the haunting Holmfirth Anthem and Diadem and even penned one of her own in the dreamy, gentle Home. A Christmas treat.
THE TELEGRAPH 14.12.11
Kate Rusby is the pick of Santa’s song parade
Kate Rusby’s Christmas album While Mortals Sleep is a cracker but there are some musical puddings out there. Rather like the office Christmas party, festive albums are usually made up of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Now, Yorkshire’s Kate Rusby is unlikely to make the billboard charts with her Christmas CD While Mortals Sleep but it has the rather unusual quality of genuinely celebrating Christmas in a tasteful and heartfelt manner.
There is a strong tradition of folk and country Christmas albums – it would be hard to top Emmylou Harris’s bluegrass Christmas album Light of the Stable, with its stunning version of Silent Night – but Rusby’s While Mortals Sleep is a quiet little delight.
Rusby includes a couple of classic carols – Little Town of Bethlehem and Joy to the World – but the songs that brim with seasonal warmth are the carols which have their roots in South Yorkshire, Diadem, written in 1779, blends brass and accordion to beautiful effect. Cranbrook and Holmfirth Anthem are as warm and enjoyable as mince pies and brandy.
There’s plenty of musical puddings out there but if a festive delicacy is your taste then plump for Rusby.
THE GUARDIAN 9.12.11
Amid the usual slew of cash-ins, here is a Christmas album that does what a Christmas record should; make you feel as warm and comforted as the post-dinner mince pies. As with 2008′s Sweet Bells, Penistone folkie Rusby draws on the tradition of carol singing in South Yorkshire public houses, even unearthing centuries – old tunes in Diadem and Holmfirth Anthem. Delivered in an accent as South Yorks as Barnsley Bitter, opener Cranbrook finds her singing While Shepherds Watched to the tune of On Ilkley Moor Baht’At. Rusby’s own compositions – especially the sublime Home – crystallise that festive feeling with lyrics about bells, snow and angels. Whether acoustic guitar or brass, the instrumentation is minimal; her Little Town of Bethlehem is particularly still and magical. Rocking Carol, once given a bonkers electronic treatment by New Order, is warmly rendered with horns and euphonium. You won’t play it in June, but his is lovely festive fare.
THE SUN 25.11.11
Folk singer Kate returns with her second Yuletide album (following 2008′s Sweet Bells) and it’s another chance to catch that purest and sweetest of voices in full flight.
Inspired by the carol singing tradition of her native South Yorkshire, these 12 songs are as crisp and even as freshly fallen snow.
Some are rooted in the Christmas story (Little Town of Bethlehem and Shepherds Arise) but others have a more abstract seasonal message (First tree in the Greenwood and The Wren).
Best of all is opening song Cranbrook, which sets the words of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks to the tune of On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At.
THE SUNDAY MERCURY (Christmas Round-up) 23.11.11
….. more credible is While Mortals Sleep by folkie Kate Rusby, whose album of South Yorkshire songs and carols is gorgeous.
THE SUNDAY TIMES 13.11.11
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
In an age when the approach of Christmas is heralded musically by a raucous scream from a Midlands glam rocker, or the better, hate-filled words of the doomed and disappointed denizens of a New York drunk tank, Kate Rusby’s new album offers a more traditional alternative; 12 Christmas carols. Traditional, yes, but it may not be your tradition. Like its predecessor, 2008′s Sweet Bells, While Mortals Sleep contains well-known carols, but Rusby sings the South Yorkshire versions of them – settings that sometimes overlap with the more familiar versions, and sometimes are completely different. This can be slightly disconcerting at first. You look at the sleeve, think “Ah, yes, I know this one”, then find that you don’t. Once you get over the confusion, however, this mix of familiarity and unfamiliarity (unless you grew up in the folk clubs of South Yorkshire) is rather a bonus, as you are able both to wallow in the kind of comfy nostalgia that would be a guilty pleasure at other times, but is perfectly acceptable round about now, and to enjoy the discovery of an entirely new tune. As we discovered on Sweet Bells, the magic in Rusby’s voice lends itself perfectly to yuletide songs; subtly underpinned by a brass quintet, it generates exactly the right degree of soothing warmth without ever tipping over into sentimentality.