For the next two weeks I will focus on my ten favourite Irish traditional or folk musicians. Of course, with music tastes change and the musician I loved listening to last month might be the one I only listen to in passing this month. That’s simply the nature of music I think. However, the musicians that really earn a place in my top ten are the ones that I go back to time and time again either because I love their arrangements or I continue to be inspired by their style of playing. Inspired is not used lightly. Musicians have inspired my playing from the first day I picked up an instrument. Some musicians that I listened and learn from for example use a technique called tight piping. It’s where notes are not played in legato, their more staccato. In non-musical terms that mean that instead of flowing notes one after another you might hear a tiny pause or small popping sound between each note. That’s not an entirely accurate description but it will hopefully be adequate for this post. Sometimes, in my opinion, a musician’s style of playing is the culmination of the musicians that have inspired him or her. This leads to what is hopefully an entirely unique style that becomes like a signature for that person.
The first musician I would like to introduce you to is Kate Rusby. This woman is an English folk singer who gave me a new appreciation for singing and the instrumental arrangements that accompany it. From the first time I listened to her I really liked the way she portrayed feeling and a sense of the meaning behind each song she sang. For example, in the album underneath the stars in the song Sweet Williams ghost, she sings of how a woman is called to her lovers grave by his ghost only to be told that they must part for the last time. The woman overcome with grief lies down on the grave, stretches out her limbs and cries. The way Kate sings this by elongating the word cries by subtly dragging out the r adds power and meaning to the words.
Kate Rusby seems to be as comfortable with fast songs as she is with portraying feeling in the slower songs she sings. With accompaniment by infamous musicians such as John McKusker and Michael McGoldrick she is one of the only singers I know who can add jazzy rhythms into folk songs. A song that really explains this better than I can with words is Sir Eglamore from the albums Hour glass and again on Ten.
Before I get to my favourite songs by Kate Rusby, I’d just like to say that one of my all time hates has to be Drowned lovers from the album Hour glass. I have to write one song that I don’t like to just be fair about the whole thing. When a musician brings out 8 or more albums then I think their doing really well if there’s just one that I don’t really like.
A few of Kate Rusbies songs really stand out for me as favourites. Mary Blaize from the album The girl who couldn’t fly, The blind harper from the album Underneith the stars and last but certainly not least because I love her voice in it and the powerful drums in the background, I am stretched out on your grave from the album Hour glass.
Listen to Sir Eglamore sung by Kate Rusby on Youtube: