Every so often-and it isn't very often-an artist appears who seems to be descended from a transcendent realm; a kind of Platonic form of beauty. Kate Rusby is surely one such artist. All three of her solo albums have been gems but this one even surpasses the Mercury nominated 'Sleepless'. For once the media hype surrounding this artist is well and truly deserved. She is thoroughly modern taking folk music to those who have never previously considered it-just look at the cross-section of people who attend her concerts. But she is more than just a modern young woman who 'is dead proud to be a folk singer'. This album illustrates something that is particularly difficult to articulate. But its essential beauty and brilliance lies within a paradox. That is that in interpreting folk songs, and writing her own, to reflect the times in which she is living, Rusby is giving an utterly authentic voice to the ancientness of the folk tradition. When were these sings written? Yes, today but also yesterday and, hopefully, always. Here is a modern folk record that is the most traditional of artefacts. I hope Kate Rusby would regard this as the compliment it is meant to be.
It is very difficult to pick out tracks from this. The up-tempo numbers such as 'I courted a sailor' and 'William and Davey' show off the band at their best; subtle, sophisticated and truly uplifting arrangements. The 'slower' tracks are all sublime, from the haunting 'Let the Cold Wind Blow' to her own two beauties, 'Who will sing me lullabies' and 'My young man'. It is almost impossible to listen to these latter two without being moved to tears. If there is one reservation it is that all these songs sound even better now in live performance, more testimony to the fact that Kate Rusby is contributing massively to the organicness of the tradition.
She is a rare talent and this is a beautiful record. How fitting that the cover photograph shows her with a halo of stars. Little Lights but a big, big star.