Kate Rusby – Hand Me Down: Album Review

Kate Rusby enlists the help of the family on a collection of cover versions that holds a few surprises.

Release Date: 14th August 2020

Label: Pure Records

Format: CD /DL / vinyl (incoming)

Kate Rusby has been busy playing her part during the Summer season with her irrepressibly bright Singy Songy Sessions from her front room; husband Damien O’Kane providing his usual flawless musical accompaniment.

Her latest recording that’s emerged is one that fans will adore. Ever since appearing as a duo with Damien at his Folk Prostate Cancer fundraising gigs, the potential and appeal for them doing something more concrete has gained momentum. Add their appearance on the Jo Whiley show where the expectation to come up with a cover version is part of the deal and you have the planets aligning.

The versions of Oasis’ Don’t Go Away and Fairport’s Crazy Man Michael on her Philosophers, Poets And Kings album were a mere aperitif for the full-blown collection on Hand Me Down.

As a folk singer, it’s what I do, re-interpret existing songs, but usually the songs are much, much older,” she says while adding, “it dawned on me that not just the very old songs are handed down through the generations, but also favourite songs of any age, of any generation.

And although it’s her name on the cover,  bar the odd part from a band member recorded remotely, it’s not just all Kate and Damien O’Kane. What wasn’t part of the plan was having their couple’s two daughters – Daisy Delia aged 10 and Phoebe Summer aged 8 – having to come to the studio. Look down the credits and you’ll also see the expanded Rusby family doing their bit too, like the Yorkshire version of The Partridge Family.

So to the songs. It’s always interesting with these sorts of projects to see what’s hovering in the consciousness. There are clues all over the cover art which all explained in the booklet as it’s quite personal and not always as straightforward as it seems. There was me, after spotting a ‘green plastic watering can’ – thinking could it be the very same one as mentioned in Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees (a particular personal favourite). Also bearing in mind that Radiohead drummer Phil Selway has played her Underneath The Stars Festival and that the Rusbys also attended the Radiohead Old Trafford gig a couple of years ago, I was feeling confidently smug. Turns out I’m a long way from adding Sherlock to my list of pseudonyms…miles off. However, Kate/Damien, take note…

However, we do get Coldplay (like Ciaran Algar, Kate is a mahoosive fan) and Chris Martin needs a nudge that maybe he should don his folk hat and get a duet on the schedule. Perhaps the biggest curveball is The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love although you might argue a similar case for The Kinks, Prince via The Bangles, Taylor Swift and Bob Marley.

Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat is swathed in what’s become the familiar Rusby cosmic wash of recent times that provides the sonic menu on the album. By contrast, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off gets a more rustic treatment; banjo and some rubbery bass lines set up a groove that threatens, but never quite does, to take off into a real hoedown. Restraint and moderation at most, if not all, times. However, these are the two songs I find I’m turning back to.

Ray Davies’ Days has a sprightly electro bounce and we’re rubbing elbows with a bit of funk with Love Of The Common People. While songs made famous by Cindi Lauper and James Taylor remain suitably low key, two TV theme tunes – from Littlest Hobo and Connie – broaden the song selection.

The songs all come fairly faithful to the original. Sprinkled with the fairy dust of the breathy Rusby vocal. Trouble is, now you have the Rusby versions in your head, you’ll find it a task to go back to the originals. Like me, you may have tried and found it difficult.

Of course, everything is exquisitely crafted/played/produced by the precision of the multi-instrumental skills of Mr O’Kane that comes as standard. That monster of an electric tenor guitar ringing out and adding an ethereal ambience and wispy quality. He’s the Fripp & Eno of folk music, shaping and fashioning his soundscapes

So what’s next? Hand Me Down highlights another string to the bow that aside from the regular albums and the increasingly higher profile Christmas albums and tours, is a nice little side project. Whatever, you can guarantee anything that comes from the Pure/Rusby studio will continue to be first class and of immaculate quality.

Watch the made at home video for Shake It Off here:

Kate Rusby online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

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