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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 16 November 2011
Christmas albums are always to be approached with caution, I can count on the fingers of one hand the ones I have really liked, 'Carols at Christmas' by Maddy Prior; 'Holiday Songs & Lullabies by Shawn Colvin, 'The Day Dawn' by Boys of the Lough, 'We Three Kings' by The Roches, and best of the lot; 'Sweet Bells' by Mrs O'Kane.
I've only listened to 'While Mortals Sleep' a half-dozen times so far, but it's way up there with the others, and may top the lot. I used to love her old band, but having seen her solo in the old days I did think they were a bit 'show-pony' on some of her albums. Her current band are much more low-key and sensitive, which allows her wonderful voice to come more forward in the mix. I've never been a fan of brass bands on contemporary records, but the way this lot weave their way in and out of most of the songs on this album is utterly beguiling. Kate back to her very best!
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on 15 November 2011
Yet another brilliant xmas CD from Kate Rusby,I love Shepherds Arise, if you get a chance go to one of her Xmas concerts where she performs a selection of xmas songs, not to be missed. If only Kate would perform more concerts in the London area instead of one a year!
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The past few weeks have seen a plethora of winter as opposed to Christmas album's not least Kate Bush's shimmering "50 words for snow". Now that other great Kate namely Ms Rusby from Yorkshire gives us what amounts to a second instalment of slightly off the beaten track traditional christmas folk songs which follow on from her earlier "Sweet Bells" an album full of wintry - wrap your scarf around your neck - warmth and the best version of the "Holly and the Ivy" this side of the north pole. "While mortals sleep" picks off where "Sweet Bells" left off and bless her every year Kate Rusby takes these songs out on the road in a December tour and brings her own kind of special festive cheer to a town near you. It is understood that daft reindeer jumpers, a hearty mince pie and a over flowing large glass of mulled wine are compulsory at these events.

What makes Rusby's Christmas fare so special is the loving care and passion she invests into these songs, some of which are new(ish) while others very old. Her voice is as clear as a frosty day and her lovely version of the"Little town of Bethlehem" never sounded this good when this reviewers fellow pupils butchered it at school carol concert. The opening song "Cranbrook" is instantly recognisable since Rusby has adapted the lyrics to the tune of "On Ilkley Moor Baht `at" and try not to sing along. Equally if "Kris Kringle" doesn't bring a smile to your face then your heart is frozen in permafrost, while the splendid brassy version of "Joy to the world" is a sheer delight. Throughout the anchor to the album is that voice full of character and heartbreakingly plaintive. Its a cliche but Rusby could sing the menu of your local chinese takeaway and the next day you would burn it as a CD for your friends. On "Home" she has recorded a real yuletide beauty whose gorgeous melancholy completely tugs at the most cynical of old heartstrings. It really does deserve wider circulation and to displace the tired old triumpherate of Wizard, Wham and Slade from their outrageous Xmas domination of our airwares. The BBC review of this album tells us that the words to "Diadem" date from 1779, and the song does have a aged quality which seems to connect with something deeper about Christmas than the usual commercial blitz, while one of the albums standout tracks is the great version of the Christmas Poem the "First tree of Greenwood" which should be the starting point for the curious downloader.

Ultimately you have to take "When mortals sleep" on its own terms. It is quite simply a traditional folk album of songs which deserve to sung by one of the best practitioners out there. Should Rusby want to continue to present such albums as annual fayre as a quality alternative to those wretched "Best Christmas albums ever" or even Michael Buble's plundering of the legacy of Sinatra and Nat King Cole this should be a cause of Yuletide celebration. No new ground is broken here but ultimately thats not the point. Kate Rusby is a big talent and will clearly have much more non related Xmas albums up her sleeve for the future, but for now enjoy this lovely Christmas feast.
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on 13 December 2011
Having most of Kate Rusbys work I bought (downloaded) this as a matter of course but with the same doubts I had as a seasonal sceptic that I had when I bought Sweet Bells. Having just seen the live performance at the "Phill" in Liverpool the music / concept has been put into context for me. The carol singing of South Yorkshire is as much a tradition of the area as Coal Mining and Steel making is (sorry - was !!) Christmas music is part of our seasonal and cultural heritage - dare I say Folk heritage ! ! This is beautifuly illustrated by the use of some non mainstream (yet atill authentic)tunes to well recognized lyrics. As an exiled Yorkshireman integrating the brass into the tunes is fabulous - brought a tear to the eye with happy memories of Christmases past gathering as a family and staring at the radio. And of course the superb voice with a thankful lack of mid-atlantic twang. Buy it and try to get to the concerts . Seasonal greetings to all - Hey Santa pass us that bottle will ya ! ! !
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on 7 June 2012
Avoiding the cliché of echoing the ending of each line of "Cranbrook" ("While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night") set to its original melody and pinched by Yorkshire for the setting of "On Ilkley Moor Baht'at" this jaunty start to Kate's second seasonal offering proves a joyous bundle of fun. Joined by the Brass Quintet Boys ensemble this proves a judicious addition to Rusby's band featuring Damien O'Kane (guitar), Ed Boyd (bouzouki), Julian Sutton (diatonic accordion) and Kevin McGuire/Duncan Lyall (double bass). To be perfectly honest the collaboration of brass arrangements coupled with a `folk music' background creates such a feel-good factor that I'm surprised Simon Cowell hasn't cashed in on it. With its mixture of traditional ("Little Town Of Bethlehem"), contemporary ("Kris Kringle") and Kate's evocative "Home" there isn't a duff track here. All right, so everyone by now must know how popular Christmas is for me musically speaking with over 100 albums and counting and so it proves with a majority of not only performers but their audiences as well. Along with my James Taylor `At Christmas' and The Spinners `Sing Out, Shout With Joy' recordings this is by far and above the best representation of any seasonal offering I have the pleasure to own and goes without saying that you should purchase a copy to put yourself in a good mood whatever time of year you play it. A 100% (Christmas) cracker!

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on 9 December 2011
I saw Kate talking about the release of this album at the Cambridge Folk Festival in the summer, and hoped it would live up to, and equal her earlier Christmas album Sweet Bells. All I can say is that if you liked Sweet Bells, or enjoy folk music remotely, buy this album. Is probably one of the best christmas albums I own!
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on 17 January 2012
After the first album with carols from Yorkshire - which I enjoyed very much - I was hoping that Kate would make another album. When in a Dutch newspapaer I read that she indeed had a new one I immediately ordered it and I enjoy it as much as I did with the first one. Those two albums are amongst the Christmas albums I listen to more than any other album I owe
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on 21 December 2011
I love Kate Rusby's first Christmas album and this just adds more to the collection. Those ofnus that see her Christmas live tour have been spoilt with the beautiful sounds of the Brass boys, that feature heavily on this album, "oh little town of Bethlehem" translates well from studio on to the album, although the live version brings me to tears. Gorgeous sound.
Many great new tunes - love the simply lyrics of "home" and "kris Kringle" has you tapping your feet. I usually have "joy to the world" rolling round my head after a listen.
If you love Kate this is a must. If you've not listened before then treat yourself. It's a beautiful Christmas album full of traditional spirit and warmth.
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on 10 January 2012
Having listened repeatedly to the marvellous Christmas CD `Sweet Bells` a couple of years ago, it was with some anticipation, that I awaited the release of Kate`s second Christmas Album `WMS`, which is again in my view an absolute `must` for any collector of Christmas songs on the one hand, and, on the other, of good Celtic and English folk music. Both of these CDs occupy pride of place among my CD collection. Anyone buying WMS will not be disappointed with the quality, tone, lyrics,cultural content and all-round musicianship. An added `plus` for me was to attend Kate`s concert in Edinburgh on 5 December which, apart from being a wonderfully enjoyable concert, easily proved that Kate and her band are highly accomplished singers,entertainers and musicians, who are more than capable of producing alone or together a fully accurate reproduction of what they do on CD. I must in particular, congratulate the members of the brass ensemble, who play with Kate and the band to such outstanding effect. I don`t know much about that aspect of the production, but I think it must must be a pretty difficult to keep sound levels right. The playing of the brass instruments was nothing short of excellent and added so much to the finished product and to the all-round atmosphere and ambience of the music! Terrific!

As to the songs on the CD there is a great balance between the popular carols sung traditionally in public houses around South Yorkshire `While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night` to the tune of `On Ilkley Moor Bhat Hat``Little Town of Bethlehem``Joy to the World`, `Shepherds Arise!` and `First Tree in the Greenwood`. Then there are straight hymn carols such as `Diadem`; I found myself joining along with Kate as she and the band perform with such gusto. But there is another element to the work of Kate and the band. Kate is also thoughtfully interested in the joy of home, family and the realm of nature and there are powerful songs here, which rightfully take their place alongside the usual carols - `Holmfirth Anthem` `The Wren` and - perhaps not surprisingly `Home` itself.

Altogether this is a great `feel good` CD - an essential item of Christmas Eve music to get one into the right frame of mind for Christmas after the `shopping thrash`- and worth every penny I paid for the CD and the others, which I have happily given as presents to some friends. Great stuff Kate, Damien and Ed and the rest of the band. Well done indeed! Only question I have now is, when are you all coming to Belfast to do a proper Christmas concert there??? We`ve been waiting too long!
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on 18 January 2013
I have too many favourite artists to list in all music genres but, for me, Kate Rusby reigns supreme. The first Kate album I purchased was 'Little Lights' and I was immediately hooked, quickly collecting her whole catalogue!!!!
I have read some reviews of Kate's recent albums which say they are a little on the slow and dreary side, well to them I say ... tosh ... rubbish !!!! Even when she sings a slow number, she wraps you in a warmth and intimacy that only a good tot of rum comes close to!!!
'While Mortals Sleep' did not disappoint. If anyone wants to get in the Christmas spirit then listen to Queen kate; even better I can recommend trying to catch her famous Christmas tour. I had tried on a few occasions over recent years but they had always been sold out. 2012 was at last a success, catching her on tour in Malvern just before Christmas, and what a fantastic build up to the season. Kate performed most of the tracks off this album .. plus. If anyone projects the spirit and excitement of Christmas better than Kate, then I have yet to hear them. She makes you feel as though you are in her front room with her family (Or better still her local pub/club!!!). Every track, be them up-beat or slower, conveys every emotion about the winter season and Christmas. Her 'live' patter in concert is worth the price of the ticket alone, with her cheeky, down to earth, humour. There is no superstar ego or snobbery about Kate. Go on, if you haven't already done so, get hooked on Queen Kate, she really does have the voice of an angel (The Christmas one...of course!).
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