Kate Rusby & Friends
at the Barbican,
York, England
(6 March 2004)

Buoyed by the release of her just-released DVD Live In Leeds, this evening was a great opportunity to see Kate Rusby performing in her home county. The atmosphere as I found my seat was buzzing -- Rusby is attracting large audiences to her gigs nowadays, and there were at least 1,000 at the Barbican for this show. The gig was billed as "The Kate Rusby Trio' -- but, as ever, Rusby sprang a couple of nice surprises on us, for the stage was set up for five musicians. Joining her was Fine Friday's Kris Drever, a very talented multi-instrumentalist and singer from Orkney, and Yorkshire's own singer-guitarist Dave Burland. They provided sterling support to Kate, her multi-instrumentalist husband John McCusker and diatonic accordionist Andy Cutting.

I've followed Rusby's career for a while now, and this was a really special gig. The atmosphere was fantastic, and the audience was for the most part really up for the concert -- though it always amazes me that some seem to remain unmoved by the performance of this most exquisite and celebrated of Yorkshire singers! Rusby never fails to inject her performances with the strongest, purest vocals and the best musical accompaniment -- she's a great acoustic guitarist herself. She writes beautiful, traditional-sounding songs and has an uncanny knack of rediscovering gorgeous, long-forgotten British folk songs.

Her performance was pretty near faultless, and put the listener through the usual emotional rollercoaster: sublime vocals and instrumentals punctuated with an ocean of humorous banter, and even the occasional tear-jerking moment. The pre-gig publicity is spot-on where Rusby is concerned -- you're promised a "life-affirming evening," and that's exactly what you get. And you never forget that this is the woman who, when accepting a music prize a couple of years back, announced in her fantastic Yorkshire accent "I'm dead proud to be a folk singer, me!"

Rusby performed songs from her recently released album Underneath the Stars, plus favourites like "I Courted A Sailor," "Who Will Sing Me Lullabies," "Fairest of All Yarrow" and "Sir Eglamore" from her earlier releases. Kate's acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals were underpinned by the strongest, most lyrical support from McCusker (cittern/violin/whistles/banjo) and Andy Cutting (diatonic accordion). Kris Drever (double bass/guitar) sang an exquisite song "Funery," his deep, resonant voice filling the Barbican beautifully. Credit to the soundman, Kate's brother Joe Rusby, who did a marvellous job tonight. Dave Burland (acoustic guitar) joined the band in the second half of the set, and provided a wonderful vocal on "Down By the Banks of Wild Primroses."

One of the encores was "Rollin' Home," where the combined vocals of Rusby, Burland and Drever were superb. Rusby's final encore was her beautiful self-composition "Underneath the Stars" (currently on BBC Radio 2's A-list, something of a coup for a folk singer). She occasionally performs this song with the brass players of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band -- a very moving sight and sound. I've also seen Rusby sing this song quite literally "underneath the stars," at a very special outdoor summer charity gig near to her hometown of Barnsley. That was truly a moment to savour.

Tonight she performed the song solo, and it was perfect. Rusby is undoubtedly one of Yorkshire's finest contemporary female singer-songwriters.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 8 May 2004