This review is part of the second annual "I'll Show You Mine If You'll Show Me Yours" write off. I am your fearless host. I must give credit where credit is due and thank our favorite guntoting Epinionater sslabs for the title to the writeoff, which he coined last year. The idea of the write off is to pair off music writers, and to have them assign a cd to each other that they normally wouldn't go near unless they had a gun to the head. My partner for this exercise in expanding musical horizons is kristinafh.
My first thought was "oh yes, she WILL be made to skank her boyband loving butt off!" My second thought was "oh sh*t, what boyband will she assign me?" Surprisingly, she went about 180 degrees away from her usual pop genre and told me "I'm gonna give you Little Lights by Kate Rusby."
My first thought upon hearing THAT was "who the f*ck is Kate Rusby?" Like honestly, I had no clue in the world. I had but two leads, jack and sh*t, and jack had just left town (first person to name the movie I stole that from gets a prize). Finding biographical information on the woman was near impossible, so I had to turn to the All Music Guide.
Since I don't want to just copy what they have, I'll try and summarize: Kate grew up in England in a musical family, and it wasn't long before British folk was her forte. After various collaborations, she released her solo debut, Hourglass, which was followed by 1999's Sleepless. Little Lights is her third solo effort, and it was released in 2001.
So what is this? It's British folk, although some of the songs have a decidedly Celtic influence as well, but then again, for all I know, British folk might just be a lot like Celtic folk. I wouldn't know, I'm not exactly an expert on folk music, hence my nickname on this site.
To be truthful, it's rare that a folk artist can grab me. I mean, I hate Bob Dylan (the man can write a great song, but jesus he needs to stop singing), I despise Joni Mitchell, and the only folk singer that's grabbed me is Ani DiFranco, and she isn't exactly straight up folk these days.
However, Little Lights is an overall solid effort that has a couple of very notable strengths (namely Kate's gorgeous voice and the arrangements to some of the songs), and a couple of very notable weaknesses (namely the lack of differentiation in many spots and the lack of a real change of pace for the most part).
Immediately from the first song on the first listen, I was taken by Kate's voice. She reminds me a lot of Sarah McLachlan on this song, titled Playing of Ball. The song has some nice background instrumentation on it, but I kind of wish they had put Kate's guitar higher in the mix. She sounds like she's a good guitar player, but half the time I have to strain myself to hear it.
Her English accent comes out in spades on I Courted a Sailor, which has a bit of a quickened pace to it, which is both refreshing and rare on this disc. What's also rare on this disc is any sense of seeing who Kate is with regards to the lyrics.
For the most part, the lyrics tell a story, usually about love, that doesn't seem to relate to Kate at all. Now, obviously, some of these are traditional British folk songs and all, but the originals don't hold exactly what it is that makes folk such an important art form: the personal quality of the lyrics.
The one exception is Who Will Sing Me Lullabies, from which I took my title. This is a powerful breakup song that just oozes with pain and hurt and rejection. Kate's voice really just soars on this song.
I also like the bouncy, quickened pace of Willam and Davy. But other than that, I'm hard pressed to say I truly loved anything on this disc. I could listen to it a million times, I don't find it annoying, but I do find that it could put me to sleep if I'm not really listening to it.
If Kate Rusby can meld her terrific voice with the addition of some permanent players, and show us some more of just who exactly she is lyrically, she could be a surefire talent that could eventually cross over in some respects. However, if she stays in the same couple of ruts she created for herself with this album, she won't keep her fans for very long.
I enjoyed this album, but again, there were a couple of things that kept me from loving it. I recommend it, it probably serves a decent enough introduction to Kate Rusby and what she's all about. I also implore you to check out Kristina's review of the CD I assigned her, Catch 22's Keasbey Nights.
And check out the other pairings as well:
thevoid99 and aerocat
lambchops and paulyoungotti
cletta1201 and jennjoy
freak369 and kcfoxy
One final note: to those who were invited last year who were not invited back this year: don't take this as meaning much of anything, other than I wanted this to be a very smallish affair. Last year was great, but with 40+ participants, it was about 2 handfuls too much.