Kate Rusby,
Underneath the Stars
(Pure, 2003)

Kate Rusby has one of the most distinctive voices in music today. Her Yorkshire accent comes through on certain words in her performances that let you know that you could not be listening to anyone else. Add to this her earlier label of "folk babe" and you will realise that this is a unique artist.

Rusby is one of the people that can bring the tradition of folk music to the masses. She has a love for the past but is not afraid to modernise. She performs in a 21st-century idiom but can compose a song today that you might believe has been around the clubs for centuries.

This CD has very nice balance of old and new, traditional and modern. In fact at times the balance is as fine as old words getting a Rusby tune.

The opening track is one such example. Who has heard "The Good Man"? Who has heard the Dubliner's "Seven Drunken Nights"? Both have the same roots but I much prefer Rusby's gentler renditions.

The combination of traditional words and new musical composition is continued on other tracks. My favourite among these has to be "Let Me Be." This is a courtship song from the girl's point of view as she discounts a number of suitors from Robin the miller to cousin Dick in favour of the soldier boy, Ned, whose "eyes are blue but they don't see me."

Not that all the lyrics are old. Rusby is a fine writer and displays her talent to great effect on tracks such as "Polly" and "Sweet William's Ghost." Either of these songs could end up in a few decades with "trad" in the credit as people find them sung in pubs and clubs and are unaware that a young girl in 2003 wrote them as a show of her respect for a long tradition.

The CD concludes with the title track, another from Rusby's pen and guitar. This is a beautiful, gentle song, sung with feeling in a voice that is unique.

If you like folk music and individual rendition along with a love of good new music, Kate Rusby is worth any and all effort at seeking out.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 17 January 2004

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