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On 10, a celebration of Kate Rusby's first decade as a recording artist, she reminds us once again that it's possible to sing ancient ballads about brave knights, fair maidens, rustic villagers, and all the other denizens of Folk Song Land with an immediacy and emotional intensity that are completely modern. Four of the 15 songs here were culled from her earlier CDs; two new songs, "I Wish" and "Over You Now," were composed by Rusby; and two are live recordings. The remaining seven tracks are new versions of previously recorded songs, including "The Recruited Collier," the first song her mother taught her, and "The Wild Goose," a raucous sea shanty reinvented as a gentle meditation on longing. Rusby has been performing these selections for years now, and her new takes on them reveal a restless artist searching for a different path to the heart of familiar songs. She is accompanied by an excellent group of musicians, including fiddler John McCusker, guitarist Ian Carr, and accordionist Andy Cutting. Their playing is spare but each note is perfectly placed. 10 beautifully sums up Kate Rusby's first decade as a professional musician, while suggesting that the best is yet to come. --Michael Simmons
This recording, "10", is the perfect chance for listeners to hear re-done versions of several of her best songs, taken mostly from "Sleepless," but also from several other albums, and to compare them to the originals. Slight differences in tempo and ornament can make a huge difference in how a song is perceived. Most of the re-arranged songs on "10" are taken at a slower tempo than originally recorded. That's because Kate Rusby's voice is ideal for "weeping songs," and a slower tempo allows her to make the most of the pathos inherent in most folk songs, and also to do the ornamentation she does so well, turning even the most mundane tune into something special. "The Recruited Collier" and "The Sleepless Sailor" absolutely come alive done in this way, and "Botany Bay" is so much better on this album it's phenomenal.
If you aren't already a Rusby fan and are trying to decide which album to buy first, make it this one. For one thing, "10" just has more music on it, making it a better buy, but the real reason is that this is Kate at her best--every song is a gem. I've played this album for at least 20 people, all with different musical tastes, and every one has said, "Wow."
One of my favorite songs on this album is "I Wish" which is a portrait of the regret of a girl who has become pregnant by a man who has since moved on to someone else. Here she uses words of a traditional song with her own melody to create a fantastic effect.
Similarly the tragedy in "The Drowned Lovers" which features a curses by a mother (and in one interpretation even murder) against her son and meddling by another mother which lead to both lovers drowned in the Clyde, encapsulates this tragedy in beautiful singing.
Not all songs are heavy though. Sir Eglamore documents a knight who fights a dragon to a stalemate (and wounds the dragon but loses his sword), and The Sweet Bride is about a woman who rides off with an otherworldly figure (similar to Mannanan Mac Lir of Irish myth) to wed him.
All in all, a very strong set of songs well done. Highly recommended and shows the true potential of traditional music.
Kate certainly can join the other excellent ballad singers such as Eva Cassidy, Karine Polwart and Mary Black in continuing this tradition. This album allows you to have some of the best from Kate's many CD's.