Kate Rusby in a wonderful return to form...
Chris Long 2007
In a world of rumbling change and shifting ground, Kate Rusby has become as reliable and comfortable as a chair by a roaring fire; her songs and her singing have a consistency that many artists would give their right arm for.
So it should come as no surprise that Awkward Annie, her seventh solo outing, is another fine collection of traditional and original folk. Only, given the changes that have occurred since the release of its predecessor, The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly, you can’t help but feel it’s worth double the praise.
She lost two close relatives while putting the album together and the split with husband John McCusker meant she needed a new producer. With indomitable Yorkshire practicality, her decision was to face that problem herself and with help from her brother Joe, Awkward Annie sees her not only doing the songwriting but also the knob-twiddling.
Still, it’s a long standing truth that from hard times comes fine art, and Awkward Annie is testament to that. While Kate describes the making of the album as “extremely tough” in her notes, the resulting songs have a refreshed vibrancy and depth that was occasionally lacking on The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly.
That energy comes not only from her songs but from those involved with them. Alongside the usual suspects of Andy Cutting, Ian Carr, Andy Seward and, in a supreme piece of magnanimity, John McCusker, there are turns from Eddi Reader, Michael McGoldrick, Kris Drever and even ex-Nickel Creek-er Chris Thile.
Of all the contributors, it seems that Chris Thile’s presence has had the greatest effect. Even beyond the songs he performs on, the jaunty "High On A Hill" and toe-tapper "The Old Man", there is an air of bluegrass wafting through Kate’s traditionally English sound.
But the real pleasure in the album comes from the fact there is no runt to be found in the litter. The traditional tunes, like the ever-stirring "Blooming Heather" or heart-breaking "Andrew Lammie", are complemented superbly by her originals, not least of which is "Daughter Of Heaven", a tear-stained tribute to those she has lost.
Awkward Annie is a long way from re-invention, but from the simple fun of the title track to the bonus of her cover of The Kinks’ "The Village Green Preservation Society", it does show one thing; after the slight stumble of The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly, she has found her songwriting wings again