Review: Kate Rusby Victoria Theatre Halifax, April 14, 2024

Kate RusbyKate Rusby
Kate Rusby
Spending an evening in the company of Barnsley songstress Kate Rusby and her ‘boys’ (Duncan Lyall, Damien O’Kane and Sam Kelly) is like being enveloped in a warm, furry blanket.

We forgot the howling gales and lashing rain of a wet April night and just enjoyed the songs, the music, the gentle banter and wholesome good humour she is just so good at.

We were at the marvellous Victoria Theatre Halifax, the third gig in her two-month, 16-date tour dubbed the Singy Songy Session tour.

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So named after the YouTube videos Kate and her family released during lockdown which were filmed in their living room and the garden of their farmhouse.

She talks about her wonderful childhood with her musician parents, brother and sister, being ferried around the country attending folk gigs and festivals and singing in the back of the car; her two daughters, now 14 and 12, and even her two dogs - one who loves music, the other who runs a mile whenever she sees a banjo case.

In her 32-year professional career, Kate has released 22 albums which she says is ‘Way more than Madonna and not a cone in sight’ and the tour cherry picks songs from across the decades, some traditional ballads she learned as a child and others her compositions.

Kate always tells the story behind each song before (or sometimes after) she sings it. How she came to write it or learn it and what it means to her and the people around her.

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First up was Walk The Road from the 2010 album Walk the Light, the first of her albums to feature her compositions.

Next was another of Kate’s songs called William and Davy, the story of two brothers who loved the same girl which, as it turned out was unrequited. If you didn’t know better you’d swear this was a ballad passed down through the centuries. Kate has a knack for recreating the lyrics and music of the earliest folk singers and is a real testament to her skills

The Lark was inspired when she took a break from recording at her home studio and wandered out into the South Yorkshire countryside with her dog and heard a lark singing.

Kate tells a lovely story of her family’s time in lockdown when the first thing they did every morning was play Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds to cheer them all up.

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She recorded it for the Hand Me Down album of 2020. It featured half-a-dozen members of her family - all adding their individual vocals. Watch the video on Kate’s YouTube channel if you want a real lift.

One of her most poignant songs came next, guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat of all who hear it. No Names (the working title that stuck) is about loving someone and letting them go.

Take my hand my dear;

We know that the time it is near;

Be strong and be brave, my dear;

Let me go now, let me go.

The first set finished with Fairest of all Yarrow then I Wonder What is Keeping my True Love - a dialogue between a couple who have differing expectations of their relationship.

Set two led with As the Lights Go Out, a star-gazing song that allows Kate’s voice free rein to soar. Sam Kelly’s backing vocals, a wonderful complement.

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The Yorkshire Couple, a humorous tale of a long-married couple on their retirement plans - one of the songs Kate learned as very young child, embellished with Damien’s guitar solo

Awkward Annie is another humorous and typical courting song with a happy tune and a singalong chorus.

Who Will Sing Me Lullabies?, another tear-jerker and one of my absolute favourites. It was written by Kate in memory of her friend Scottish folk singer and musician Davy Steele who died in 2001 and was the first person to break her heart.

Kate retired from the stage to allow her boys to take over - declining Damien’s suggestion that she performed a contemporary dance to their set. The tunes called Headlifter and Bowel Shifter were both written by Damien and showcased his incredible skill as a banjo player.

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Farmer’s Toast came next and then another favourite of mine, Kate’s cover of The Kinks’ Village Hall Appreciation Society recorded as the theme tune for the comedy series Jam and Jerusalem.

The encore, which came much too soon was Underneath the Stars which is also the name of the Rusby family festival held each year in Cawthorne in August.

Get tickets if you can.

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