KATE RUSBY: Hand Me Down (Pure)
Verdict: Stunning covers collection
Folk singer Kate Rusby, 46, seen her touring plans thrown into disarray this year
Like many musicians, Kate Rusby has seen her touring plans thrown into disarray this year. Dates she should have played in the spring have been rescheduled for 2021, and festival appearances have either bitten the dust or been moved to online-only events.
But lockdown has also thrown up an opportunity for the Barnsley folk singer. Forced into isolation at home with musician husband Damien O’Kane and their two young daughters, she has combined home schooling with impromptu recording to produce a stunning new covers album.
The idea for Hand Me Down came initially from the acoustic sessions Kate performed on Jo Whiley’s Radio 2 show.
Her first visit yielded a version of Oasis’s Don’t Go Away, her second a reflective take on The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love. The Oasis ballad popped up on her last studio album. Her Cure cover is one of the 12 tracks here.
‘The pandemic has been emotional,’ says Rusby, 46. ‘At times, I’ve likened it to riding a speeding shark while wearing a bikini.
‘I always intended to make an album this year but the lockdown has made it more intimate. As a folk singer, I usually re-interpret older songs — but it’s not just the old songs that are handed down through the generations.’
British folk royalty since the 1990s, Rusby’s respect for tradition has never stopped her venturing into other areas.
She has made five Christmas albums and had a Top 10 single with Ronan Keating, but the beautifully sung Hand Me Down is her most audacious effort yet. The album isn’t just a case of stripped-down strumming.
As producer, O’Kane wraps his wife’s warm, soulful vocals in rich arrangements. He plays guitar and drums, too, with a cast of remotely recorded guests adding extra electronics, banjo and percussion.
Recorded in isolation at home with musician husband Damien O’Kane and their two young daughters, she has combined home schooling with impromptu recording to produce a stunning new covers album
On Manic Monday — written by Prince for The Bangles and a hit for the latter in 1986 — Rusby taps into the song’s underlying melancholy. She’s joined on vocals by her daughters Daisy, ten, and Phoebe, eight. As a responsible mum, she also tweaks the lyrics slightly by omitting some of the song’s more lustful lines.
Coldplay’s Everglow also lends itself well to Rusby’s tender treatment, though the real tour de force is a banjo-led interpretation of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off.
Kate describes Taylor as ‘a brilliant role model for daughters everywhere’ and her lively take does full justice to a great pop song.
Elsewhere, there are tracks more in keeping with her folk roots. James Taylor’s Carolina On My Mind, a song about homesickness, takes on fresh meaning in light of the pandemic, and Texan country singer Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat is resonant and shimmering.
Only Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours — which feels too obvious a choice — fails to hit the spot on a rewarding detour.
BRUCE HORNSBY: Non-Secure Connection (Thirty Tigers)
Verdict: Adventurous piano pop
BRUCE HORNSBY’S bright, rolling piano was the essence of FM Radio rock back in the days of shoulder pads and mullet hairstyles. His 1986 single The Way It Is, made with The Range, topped the U.S. charts and was a hit in the UK — but its maker has always been more restless than those triumphs might suggest.
His career since the 1980s has been unpredictable. He has been a member of The Grateful Dead, written film scores for Spike Lee and become an unlikely mentor to American indie-rock’s coolest customers, working with The Killers’ Brandon Flowers and