Kate Rusby is undoubtedly one of the big names in the recent revival of British folk helping rescue the genre from silver tankard wielding traditionalists to create a more contemporary sound and this is her third Christmas album.
This time Rusby has just not delved in the songs of her South Yorkshire festive roots, but included three tunes from Cornwall – collected by Ralph Dunstead – performed in pub singsongs when people used gathered to sing folk carols in the boozer before TV was invented.
The jaunty Bradfield with its sharp horns sets the festive mood as does the epic Cornish Wassailing using Dunston’s collected words set to Rusby’s own tune. Then things come to a grinding halt with a misjudged cover of Winter Wonderland that attempts to fuse swing and folk, but falls right down the middle. The mix submerges the horns and – as on a few of these tunes – you really want Rusby to just let rip vovally.
There is no doubting the precision of Rusby’s voice, but sometime it just needs to be a bit warmer as it is on the saucy and uptempto Christmas Goose as the hero goes off to off to buy a bird for the table and cops off with a chambermaid as a bonus. Sadly the dire Yorkshire Merry Christmas takes the mood down as does Mount Lyngham which is a just a reworking of a traditional carol.
The album does end on a high with the title track which is the only Rusby original composition – complete with a glorious vocal – that if you didn’t know better could have been a traditional tune.
Lots of highs and lows, but this is still a superior Christmas record with moments of great beauty that will be perfect for folkies as they deck the halls or the soundtrack as they potter round the kitchen on Christmas morning preparing a big family dinner.