Kate Rusby at Grassington Festival, 2011

Down to earth, with a soaring angelic voice

The Kate Rusby I discovered at the Grassington Festival was, in equal measures, a surprise and a delight. She is, at the same time, part a jolly, humorous, homely, down-to-earth Barnsley lass, and part a performer with an angelic voice backed by a wonderfully talented group of musicians.

I didn’t know much about Kate Rusby before the Festival. Expecting a guitar-strumming folk singer performing on her own, I was pleasantly surprised to spy a range of guitars and several microphones on stage as I squeezed into a seat as close to the stage as I dared.

The support act, Tom Figgins, came on for 20 minutes and did a great job of getting everyone in the mood. Supported by a single guitarist he strummed away and belted out a number of his own songs before leaving to rousing applause.

Almost immediately, Kate and her band filled the space, to begin 2 hours of fun and startlingly beautiful, sometimes haunting, music.

Kate Rusby – as described on her website

The Biographer on your website does you no favours, Kate …“Of all the stars in Folk Music’s wondrous firmament, few shine as brightly as Yorkshire’s Kate Rusby”. And it gets worse. For a plain speaking and proud Barnsley lass, it’s well over the top!

Taking joy in music

I’m no music reviewer so I am not going to take you through the repertoire using the sort of flowery, self-indulgent, prose that many reviews delight in.

Instead, here are some of the things that particularly stuck me during the evening:

  • Kate has a stunning, crystal-clear, voice that I found awe-inspiring.
  • She is utterly charming, interspersing the songs (most of which she has written) with lovely, home-spun, funny stories about her daughter, her dog, her fear of moths, the craft hour thrust on her band when things get a touch fraught on tour. The audience lapped it up.
  • She is a proud Barnsley lass; lively, chatty, fun loving. And she loves sharing her Yorkshire roots with the audience.
  • Her Yorkshire vowels are clear during the songs, not drowned out, as with so many singers, by a uniform transatlantic twang.
  • Best of all, there is an unconcealed joy in the music. The whole band is focused when playing, with Kate alternately caressing the microphone or swaying alluringly to the beat, her hands playing the chords. At the end of each song there is a wonderful moment when the whole band looks at each other, breaking into broad smiles revealing genuine delight at the performance.

This was a brilliant, surprising and wonderfully enjoyable performance from a highly talented singer supported by truly gifted musicians. Whether you love folk music or not, the sheer quality of Kate Rusby voice and the brilliant playing will win you over.

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