When you listen to Kate Rusby, you hear the very essence of Celtic music. Her voice soars over the top of a song without the gross limitations of a human form. Kate Rusby can fly anytime she wants.
The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly is Rusby’s sixth release on Compass. How does it differ from ’03’s Underneath the Stars? Not by much. She continues to drink deeply from the well of traditional music, combining her new compositions with older works. Unlike many folk artists of the ’60s whose “updated” renditions of traditional material merely turned them into pop ditties, Rusby’s music has a genuine feeling that defies fad and fleeting fashion.
Produced by her husband and longtime collaborator, John McCusker, The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly features sympathetic accompaniment by a fine core of traditional musicians. Ian Carr, John Doyle, Kris Drever on guitar and tenor guitar, Ewen Vernal and Andy Seward on double bass and many others join McCusker’s tenor guitar, cittern, whistles, piano, and fiddle. Keeping with the family feeling, the album is engineered by brother Joe Rusby on one cut. The sound is sumptuous and seductive, as befits the music. Even when a full house of musicians is brought to bear, the mix never feels too thick or busy, but preserves a sense of air and space.
Perhaps somewhere there are musicians capable of creating more compelling and authentic traditionally-flavored pop music, but I doubt you’ll find them on this side of the mortal coil. After six albums and 10 years, Kate Rusby deserves the title of Queen of Celtic music.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.