BARNSLEY folk nightingale Kate Rusby is to release her 2020 lockdown covers album, Hand Me Down, on vinyl tomorrow (22/1/2021) on her Pure Records label.
“Ooooooh it looks so beautiful,” says Kate on Instagram. “Gatefold, 180g double translucent orange discs. Very pretty! Sooo excited.”
Available in a limited edition at https://purerecords.net/collections/kate-rusby-vinyls, Hand Me Down had its roots in Kate’s rendition of Oasis’s Don’t Go Away on Jo Whiley’s BBC Radio 2 show.
That wistful ballad later featured on her 2019 studio album, Philosophers, Poets And Kings, and became a concert favourite, whereupon a return visit to Whiley’s studio elicited a mournful reading of The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love, now one of the stand-outs on Hand Me Down.
Kate and her guitar and banjo-playing producer-husband, Damien O’Kane, set about completing an album of covers in Lockdown 1, recorded in their Penistone home studio. “As a folk singer, it’s what I do: reinterpret existing songs,” says Rusby. “The only difference is that usually the songs are much older.”
Some were chosen from childhood or teenage memories (The Kinks’ Days, but from Kirsty MacColl’s sublime version; Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours), two much-covered songs you might have predicted, rather more than Maybe Tomorrow (The Littlest Hobo theme song) or The Show, from family friend Willy Russell’s musical Connie.
Covering a song is as much about what you uncover as you cover, prime examples here being Coldplay’s Everglow, Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat and in particular “role model to her children” Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, newly revelling in O’Kane’s swing-time banjo.
Nothing evokes lockdown more than the opening Manic Monday, Prince’s song for Kate’s teen favourites The Bangles, slowed and turned to acoustic melancholia for not-so-manic days of longing at home, away from the city buzz. Add South Yorkshire vowels, and who can resist.
The album closes with a ray of perennial summer sunshine, Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, as Hand Me Down becomes balm for fretful, fearful pandemic days. “I’ve always had overwhelming urges to cheer people up at times of sadness,” says Kate. “I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, but it’s always been part of my genetic make-up.”
A second winter release from Pure Records is Happy Holly Day, a live CD recording of Kate’s online Christmas concert of South Yorkshire pub carols and winter songs, streamed from Cast, Doncaster, on December 12.
That night, Kate’s folk band assembled for the first time since the March lockdown, joined by her “Brass Boys”, spread across a socially distanced stage shared with the Ruby, the fairy-lit reindeer.
As always with Kate Rusby At Christmas concerts, the two sets were followed by an encore in fancy dress, Kate in a halo and angel wings, recovered from her attic from the 2017 album cover photo-shoot for Angels And Men, as she sang Sweet Bells and Yorkshire Merry Christmas alongside Damien in Virgin Mary mode.