Salut! Reviews

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



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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Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman: a ghostly lockdown treat



* Cara Dillon - the big interview

** Potted Cara: quickfire questions, sharp answers

*** Apologies for the earlier absence of the video of the concert. Now rectified


When it comes to the Irish singer Cara Dillon and her husband Sam Lakeman, I have interests to declare.

Sam is the middle of three sons of Geoff Lakeman, a good friend, fine reporter and talented musician I have known since meeting him and his wife, Joy, at the Herga folk club in Wealdstone, north-west London all of 47 years ago.

I have met, lunched with and interviewed Cara and Sam and found them lively and engaging company. And I have great respect and affection for their music, as I do for the efforts of Sam's gifted siblings Seth and Sean (not to mention Sean's wife Kathryn Roberts).

Like all in the performing arts, they have been hit hard by the impact of Covid-19 and what Odhran Mullan, the creative director for a special event involving the couple. rightly calls the "horrible vacuum of live music" it has inflicted.

To compensate a little for careers on hold, Cara and Sam hired Cooper Hall, a venue within the grounds of Selwood Manor not far from their own home in Frome, Somerset to recreate the concert experience with expert staging, sound and lighting. But, sadly, with no audience.

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For Bill read Belinda and listen to her Wonderful Fairytale: 'not very trad, but very me'

Some years ago, I acclaimed the first album from Bill Jones - sorry to be namist about this but she signs messages with the much more appealing Belinda - and later criticised another.

I have felt rotten about it ever since; it was an honest judgement in each case but perhaps reviewers who actually like the art form they are considering should generally be happiest when able to praise, though it would be fair to wonder how many are. Now comes another album and I fell in love with it on first hearing.

Bill/Belinda and I have never met but we get along quite well electronically. Though she hails from Staffordshire, she has lived in Sunderland for most of her adult life - in itself a plus in my eyes, though I grew up 20 miles away - and has three sons, of whom one, (Dom) is, as he should be, Sunderland AFC-mad. Like me, he will be at Wembley for the League One playoff final on Sunday (May 26), when I should really be in France and he should be at his mum's gig in Chippenham.

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Dipping into the Past: Eddi Reader and Burns, bawdiness and romance


November 2017 update: as I browse the extensive Salut! Live archive for gems from the past to share with a (slightly) expanding audience, live reviews are not obvious choices. I make an exception for Eddi Reader and this corker of a review, by my great friend Pete Sixsmith, of the night he saw her in Durham. Eddi is one of many outstanding artists who were initally and inexcusably omitted from my recent spot of fun with Best Females Singers.

Eddi herself tweeted various names to me: Annie Briggs, Sandy Denny, "the lassies Unthank", Liz Fraser, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day, Siobhan Miller, Amy Winehouse. "Joanna Carlin, also known as Melanie Harold, my personal folk hero", Rachel Sermanni, Bonnie Raitt, Judee Sill and Linda Ronstadt ("Stone Poneys era"). Sandy Denny and one of "the lassies Unthank", Rachel, did head my two main lists and I have also found room for Amy Winehouse (and, belatedly, Eddi). When I told Eddi I had fond memories of her appearance at the Union Chapel in North London - "one of the best gigs I have ever attended" - some years ago, her reply was a classic: "I'm better now."

So here, from Easter 2011, is Pete Sixsmith's review. It passes the test of time with flying colours ...

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The Waterboys' Steve Wickham: from legendary fiddling to dark French sisters of love

Steve wickham - 1

Let me credit the CD's sleeve painting: Georgia Cox from Bath: visit her site

Steve Wickham: Beekeeper

After an utterly grim stream of news from home - from the London Bridge terrorist attack to the death of Vin Garbutt and now the appalling loss of life in the Grenfell Tower fire - it was as much a soothing relief as a joy to drive along the French Mediterranean coast and listen to Steve Wickham's album, Beekeeper.

This coastline knows its own trauma, of course. Nowhere is really safe from the threat of natural or unnatural disaster. Just for now, it feels peaceful and serene ahead of next month's invasion, one that transforms the population of my own little town from 6,000 to much more than 100,000.

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Geoff Lakeman: when folk rises above the dross of corporate pop

Photo: Matt Austin

Geoff Lakeman entered my life 44 years ago. Newly moved down to London from the North East, I attended for the first time the excellent Herga folk club that John Heydon ran at the Royal Oak in Wealdstone.

At some stage once we became acquainted, I mentioned to Geoff that I was chief reporter of the local rag, the Harrow Observer, only for him to knock any misplaced pride out of me with his reply: "I'm in Fleet Street, at PA (the Press Association, the national news agency)."

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