photo by Andy Snaith


Written by COLIN RANDALL of the Daily Telegraph

Find out more about the title of Kate's latest CD and her fear of flying here

The Girl Who Couldn't Fly is Kate Rusby's sixth album since she went solo much longer ago than seems possible in an artiste bursting with such freshness and youth. In an irresistible celebration of English acoustic music at its finest, Kate mixes traditional ballads with songs written by herself but blessed with the same timeless feel of those she digs out of dusty old books.

Now - in her own self-mocking words - a sprightly old lady of 31, Kate has worked wonders over the last decade in spreading the joys of the music she adores to a wider audience. Far from regarding folk as a dirty word, she has shown with each album and live performance how vibrant it can be. As a girl, Kate spent weekends and school holidays being ferried around the folk festivals where her parents' ceilidh band was playing or her dad, Steve, was in charge of sound. She loved the music, and always knew she would end up in some branch of the performing arts. But when she began a drama course in her native Barnsley, and even turned up as an extra in television soaps, acting seemed the likeliest route.

Then a bigger part (in Emmerdale) came up, and she auditioned with a fellow student. Thousands of fans who have marvelled at Kate's pure, dreamy voice, her captivating songs and the effervescent stage presence that belies her natural shyness, should be forever grateful that the other girl landed the role.

Anyone who has followed in admiration Kate's progress, from a first acclaimed solo album, Hourglass, in 1997, to the accomplished maturity of Underneath The Stars, will quickly fall in love with The Girl Who Couldn't Fly.

From the infectious opener, a sultry arrangement of the traditional The Game Of All Fours, to the bonus track, Little Jack Frost, written for a BBC animation, it oozes quality, enthusiasm and - except when the subject matter gets darker - fun. Roddy Woomble from Idlewild - Kate's current rock listening - was roped in to share vocal honours on an anguished ballad of breaking love, titled No Names

Perhaps the album's most striking feature is Kate's development as a compelling songwriter. Of 12 tracks, 7 were composed by her, while she wrote new tunes for two of the traditional ballads included. But don't get the idea that this represents a major departure; it may have crept up on some, but Kate is no beginner as a writer. "I have written music for as long as I can remember," she says. "In the past, most went in the bin. But there have been several of my own songs on different albums. I have always known what kind of songs I like to hear and which I thought of as 'moaning' songs. You know, those songs that make you think, ok, shurrup now, I've got problems too'.

"My first love is the older, story songs. You really can't beat a good long murder ballad! That means most of the songs I write are story-based. I suppose that's why they sound like traditional songs. I think 'Old Man Time' (on Hourglass) was the first I had written out of that mould, and there have been three or four since."

One note of sadness intrudes on the pride Kate takes in the release of an album she believes to be the best she has made. Kevin McCrae, a distinguished cellist who worked on Eddi Reader's glorious album of songs by Robert Burns, can be heard on The Girl Who Couldn't Fly and came up with some outstanding string arrangements. He died in an accident before the album was finished.

When Kate enters the studio, the unwavering test she sets herself is simple enough: how to make a record of music she adores. Critics who shriek for something different might as well whistle in a gale-force wind. "Some people will like it, and some won't," says Kate. "I'd never in a million years expect everybody to like my music. But anyone who tells me I need to change direction or whatever can bog off. This is the music I make, and I make it like this because I want to."

John's input is crucial to making that music sound so good. As well as playing fiddle and all manner of other instruments, he produced the album and, with Kate, arranged all its tracks. Between them, they drew on the talent and passion of a brilliant team of musicians ranging from Ian Carr ace guitarist and dab hand at table tennis, (the band's new therapy of choice when touring) - to brass bandsmen from the Coldstream Guards.


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