Cover story

The ultimate Cover Story: Kate Rusby's hand-me-downs

 

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Kate and band on home ground, Barnsley 2018. Image: Jonas Soderstrom

 

 

I was not sure whether to make this the 44th instalment of Salut! Live's Cover Story series comparing and contrasting different versions of the same pieces of music. I shall have it both ways, listing my appraisal of Kate Rusby's new album Hand me Down in two categories, Cover Story and Reviews ...

 

Much has changed in the world, including that part of the world occupied by folk music, since I first came across Kate Rusby when she was young and I was, well, not truly old.

That was the 1990s. Kate, with Kathryn Roberts*, was a breath of fresh air in folk, their Barnsley accents enhancing the songs they sang and making them sound traditional even if they were contemporary. 

Kate enjoyed saying how pleased she was that not everyone liked folk. The marginal nature of this  musical genre seemed to her to make it all the more precious, something to be sought after as if a rare diamond.

Over the years since then, she has produced some jewels of her own, a string of outstanding albums showcasing her enchantingly gentle and sometimes mournful voice, sublime live performances bringing warmth and joy to concert halls and other venues of widely varying size.

And her musical interests have developed significantly along the way. The 'knocking down castles" songs that once seemed, on her own account, to define her have been joined by captivating songs of her own composition and an enthusiasm for dipping into the work of others.

Covering classics can be a risky strategy for any performer but the overwhelmingly positive response to her interpretations, for example, of Sandy Denny's Who Knows Where The Times Goes? and Iris DeMent's Our Town served to vindicate the broadening of the Rusby repertoire.

Hand Me Down is the entirely logical consequence of that evolution, a triumphant collection of hits associated with Coldplay, the Bangles, the Kinks, Lyle Lovett, Taylor Swift, Cyndi Lauper, James Taylor, Paul Young, the Cure and Bob Marley plus two pieces culled from TV series soundtracks.

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Bells of Rhymney the Sheffield way

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Only rarely do I reopen discussions on the respective merits of different versions of songs featured in the Cover Story series.

This is not such an occasion. It is intended simply to bring to your attention a thoroughly uplifting choral interpretation of Bells of Rhymney, a powerful song from the South Wales coalfield with lyrics by Idris Davies, a miner who became a poet and teacher, adapted by Pete Seeger.

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Cover Story (43). The Auld Triangle: Glen Hansard, the Dubliners or the Pogues

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. You can buy this at Salut! Live's Amazon link. Click anywhere on this caption

The Auld Triangle is a mournful Irish ballad, one of so many that call to mind the G K Chesterton lines:

'The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad'

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Cover Story: (42) who shines on Shine On - Pink Floyd or Christy Moore?

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CR writes: when it comes to that well-known folk group, Pink Floyd, I am in two minds.
Young, I loved lots of what they did. But these days, the track I hear on French radio almost to the exclusion of any other is Another Brick in the Wall, which I loathe for reasons I hope the National Union of Teachers would understand. RTL2 does sometimes play Dave Gilmour's Rattle That Lock, based on the four-note signature French rail users hear before platform announcements, and I am grateful that it does.
Christy Moore and I go back a long way. If you were adventurous enough and even wanted to know, you'd find plenty of evidence in this site's archive of our personal and professional relationship and my great appreciation of his music.
If he appears more often than other artists in this series, Cover Story, it is for the simple reason that he has an uncanny knack of choosing just the right song, from whatever source, for his style.
My old pal Bill Taylor explains all below as he compares versions by Floyd and Moore of the same song ...

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Cover Story: Beeswing and other great songs by different artists


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By admittedly low standards, Salut! Live's series comparing, contrasting or merely drawing attention to different versions of songs has attracted decent levels of interest. Readers have even been been moved to post comments.

It's called Cover Story and can be found here. 

 

When the site entered one of its "is it really worth the bother?" periods of inactivity, I wondered whether 40 was a good a number as any on which to bring the series to a close. But I think it is worthy persevering, at least until we reach the half century and possibly beyond.

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Cover Story (41): Roy Bailey - mourn the man, treasure his work. Another fine version of Richard Thompson's Beeswing

I had not intended to re-open the debate on Beeswing. But it is possibly my favourite song - a choice that changes from time to time - and this comment might otherwise be lost in the undiscovered, though eminently discoverable, archives of Salut! Live.

More importantly, the version I reproduce above is from a wonderful figure of the British folk world who has just died, Roy Bailey (see my report on his death).

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