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Kate Rusby - Make the Light (Pure Records)
Kate Rusby's ninth solo album is made up entirely of self-penned material, an idea apparently suggested by Jennifer Saunders. Kate's exemplary track record as an interpreter of traditional songs is well documented, so too is her remarkable aptitude for recognising a good contemporary song when she hears one; Withered and Died, Village Green Preservation Society, You Belong to Me to name but three. Kate's own song writing achievements have been developing steadily over the past decade or so and we now have Kate's first full blown example of 'all me own work'.
Anyone who has followed Kate's career and in particular her most recent work, will know full well that it's anything but all Kate's own work in reality, as the young Yorkshire lass they affectionately refer to as the 'Barnsley Nightingale' is surrounded both at home and in the studio by the people she trusts the most, that is her own immediate family. Pure Records, the family label, I imagine will be as proud as Punch that this latest album showcases eleven original songs, making it even more home-made than previous releases. The key family members associated with this record are brother Joe, who co-produced the album along with Kate and husband Damien O'Kane, who is right beside Kate throughout providing production assistance, along with some tasteful guitar and banjo accompaniment. Added to this, a strong cast of musicians including Julian Sutton on diatonic accordion and Malcolm Stitt on bouzouki, together with the usual compliment of brass and string musicians, the album bears all the hallmarks of what we have come to love about a Kate Rusby product.
The material on the album is by and large made up of contemplative musings that don't necessarily follow the traditional template of the story songs Kate grew up with, pored over and re-worked over the last few years. The opening song however reveals the same sort of tale Mike Waterson told in A Stitch in Time, in that the song's heroine eventually gets one up on her miserable spouse. Personally I would rather be on the receiving end of the punishment Mike suggested, of being battered with a rolling pin, than with being turned into a dog, the fate delivered by Kate's dissatisfied protagonist in The Wishing Wife. And she seemed such a nice girl!
Kate also has a moment of angst and gives the politicians 'whom this may concern' a bit of a reprimand in Let Them Fly, an rare protest song. The sheer nature of Kate's forever youthful voice, which isn't necessarily imbued with the sort of tongue-bashing credentials of an Odetta or an Ani DeFranco for example, makes the protest slightly unfulfilled. Although it's a beautiful melody that incorporates one of Donald Grant's excellent brass arrangements, performed here by the Quintet of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, the actual effect of the song's content is rather like letting the politicians 'ave it' with a feather duster.
Kate closes the album with Four Stars, a love song to those closest to her; her man, their dog and their child. Kate may return to her huge collection of traditional song books to supply the content of her next project, but MAKE THE LIGHT is a fitting tribute to this point in the singer's life; a moment of reflection and contemplation in an otherwise busy and productive career. I'll give it four more stars.