Kate Rusby & John McCusker Heartlands Review

Soundtrack. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

You'll find no rolling, highway-chewing numbers on this album. McCusker and Rusby have...

Chris Jones 2003

The road movie may seem like an incongruous thing for British cinema to attempt. Indeed East Is East director Damien ODonnell describes, Heartlands, as a 'B-road movie'. The film concerns the tale of cuckolded darts player Colin and his journey across the North West of England to win his wife back. This is no cool-cars-rolling-down-the-two-lane-blacktop type of film, however. It's a story of an ordinary man on a moped. Thus, you'll find no rolling, highway-chewing numbers on this album. McCusker and Rusby have fashioned an album that's full of pathos and a strange, quiet dignity.

Alternating new instrumentals with familiar songs by Kate (no new stuff, unfortunately) the album's purpose as soundtrack is reinforced by an overall similarity in pace and feeling, with the non-vocal tracks echoing Kate's melodic themes. Reflecting the main theme of a man sundered from his love they've chosen songs that concern lost lovers (''Drowned Lovers''), unfaithfulness (''Let The Cold Wind Blow'') and, ultimately, closure after the separation (''Over You Now'').

Clinical tests have proven that anybody who fails to be moved by Rusby's heart-stopping voice must be either dead or seriously aurally impaired. Even in this contemporary context, traditional songs like ''The Wild Goose'' or ''I Wonder What Is Keeping My True Love'' resonate with their universality. But McCusker's mood pieces dont fall far behind. The opener, ''Colin's Farewell'', is a stately combination of piano and fiddle that sets the mood perfectly, ''Leafy Moped'' demonstrates exactly why this story of an ordinary man on a quixotic quest is perfectly matched by these sunny reels. Meanwhile a little light relief is provided by Tim O'Brien's ''Yodelling Song''.

It's tempting to suggest that anyone with a passing interest in Kate Rusby would be better off seeking out her classic Little Lights or recent compilation 10. Yet this combination of old and new transcends the usual soundtrack trap of lapsing into background noise. Once heard, you'll be hard-pressed to resist.

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