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Breathtaking ... as Always
on 8 December 2008
May I begin by confirming that I am from Lancashire.
In much the same way as she has defied the Folk Police to make 'folk music' appeal to a wide audience without compromise, Kate Rusby's "Sweet Bells" will even beguile those who "don't do Christmas." I first enjoyed the songs on this thoroughly inspired seasonal collection during Rusby's "Christmas Kate" tour and have been eagerly awaiting their release on CD ever since.
Whilst I'll concede that I might receive concerned and sympathetic looks from others if discovered savouring the delights of "Hark The Herald", "Sweet Bells" and "Here We Come A-Wassailing" in mid-July, I don't care. I'll just draw the curtains, sit next to the fridge and turn up the volume to drown out the buzzing bees.
Such is the beauty of Rusby's voice and the originality of the instrumentation - provided by diehards Andy Cutting, Ian Carr and Andy Seward amongst others including two brass bands (from Yorkshire naturally!) - that the eleven songs on "Sweet Bells" will continue to delight long after the last Christmas tree has been dismantled and resolutions forgotten.
In fact, several songs have their roots very much in the winter but convey sentiments which aren't exclusively the preserve of the festive season. "Serving Girl's Holiday", hauntingly sung to the pure accompaniment of Andy Cutting's diatonic accordion is a good example. Likewise the exquisite "Miner's Dream Of Home" and the charming "Poor Old Horse".
Unusually, there are no entirely Rusby originals here. However, as always she makes each and every song her own; living and breathing every word, hitting each note perfectly as on "Candlemas Eve".
The Best Christmas Album ... Ever? Oh yes, by a Yorkshire mile. And the best version of "The Holly & The Ivy" you'll ever hear.
Breathtaking ... as always. Thanks Kate.