By Eoin Edwards
“Oh ’allo, how’re ya doing?” And with that we were transported immediately to South Yorkshire, England, Barnsley in particular, very particular as it turned out, the former industrial town which centred on linen in its former years and later coal and glassmaking.
It could only be Kate Rusby on stage for the final concert in a 45-event Cork Folk Festival. As proven last night by the warm reception she received, Rusby is special, and once again she delivered wonderful interpretations of traditional folk songs, a night of brooding on the dales, gathering around a campfire in Sherwood Forest, maypoles, blind harpers and shepherdesses.
Though 44, she’s a wee slip of a girleen, with a delicious voice, even though at times that strong accent makes it difficult to understand her lyrics.
But by the end of the show it is obvious she is dearly loved by her fans, many of whom, from a glance around the auditorium, are serious musicians and singers themselves.
Backed by accomplished, so understated, lavishly talented musicians on bouzouki, button accordion, double bass/moog synthesiser, guitar/banjo she began with ‘Benjamin Bowmaneer’, a song about politics, new money, abuse of the poor and general misery (ring a bell with anyone?). What followed was a controlled, thoroughly professional, performance, interspersed with fun… “This one ‘The Blind Harper’ has 14 verses; don’t panic, you don’t need a picnic.”
‘The Ancient Shepherdess’ and ‘The Lark’ and ‘Hug to the Moon’ (“What if the moon was in love with the sun but couldn’t tell her”) showed her range to delightful effect.
‘Bitter Boy’ was about her late much-loved ‘Auntie Gandley’, aka uncle Stanley — “All of our uncles were aunties because my sister couldn’t pronounce uncle, or Stanley”, brought a tear to her eye.
But a word also for opening act Seamus Begley and guitarist Jim Murray, from Macroom. Polkas, jigs, jokes… magic.