Kate Rusby Band
at Cannon Hall Park,
South Yorkshire, England
(6 August 2005)

This Kate Rusby Band outdoor gig was part of a weekend of fundraising events, sandwiched between classical and jazz performances. It's always good to see Kate on her "home patch," near Barnsley. Around 2,000 people turned up to enjoy the music and spend an evening wrapped up against a cold breeze under a sky that was clear after a sunny day. A sensible ticket-pricing policy ensured that there were scores of families present, including my own.

Generous scheduling made for a set running to 2 hours and 50 minutes with half-time break, and, spending a day in the area, you quickly pick up how proud the community is of Kate's achievements. The crowd began to arrive well before the scheduled start, and we noted a lot of attention being paid to the sound-check, with the band tuning up with a few well-known songs. Band members chatted with visitors before the gig; the atmosphere was friendly and informal.

Kate has just released a new acoustic album, The Girl Who Couldn't Fly, and lent her graceful voice to the new material this evening -- she appeared relaxed and happy and was in beautiful voice throughout. She was supported by John McCusker (on outstanding form on fiddle, cittern and whistle), Andy Cutting (his accordion playing as intuitive as ever), Andy Seward and Ian Carr -- the latter musicians adding a strong backbone to these fine tunes on double bass and acoustic guitar. The standard of musicianship of these players shouldn't be understated.

Kate has a knack for writing and performing songs that you can remember almost immediately, and the audience had no difficulty picking up the choruses to songs like "Mary Blaize" (with beautifully defined guitar picking from Ian Carr), "Game of All Fours," "The Lark," "Elfin Knight" and a lovely cover of "You Belong to Me."

Kate's set included much of her best-known material, including "Sir Eglamore," "I Courted a Sailor," "The Goodman" and countless others -- songs like these generate audience participation, though to be honest there was too much chatter coming from the crowd at times. Some criticise the band's banter, but it genuinely makes people laugh, and I admire the way they don't take themselves seriously. The band members spar off each other, Andy Cutting isn't averse to sharing the odd recipe with the audience, while John and Kate rib Ian Carr mercilessly. There were the usual fast-paced instrumental sets, and a sublime feature of this gig was the inclusion of the brass section of the Coldstream Guard. Smartly dressed in black, their playing was very moving and fitted the mood of the songs beautifully. McCusker persuaded one member of the Guard to dance a lively jig to a fiddle tune as they entered the stage, and generated huge roars from the crowd. The brass instrumentation combined with Kate's emotional yet poised singing filled the night air, and was particularly poignant on songs such as "Wandering Soul" and the exquisite "Underneath the Stars."

by Debbie Koritsas
3 December 2005