Music Review: Awkward Annie
As the weather turns dark and politics turn darker still, I find myself returning to some of my musical safe-harbors. I just came home from a long road trip, accompanied by a handful of old favorites, and I'm aiming to write about one per week.
Since I'm still listening to it, let's start with Kate Rusby's 2008 record "Awkward Annie".
Kate has been a staple of the Brit-folk scene for 25 years (!), and it's more than likely that you've heard some of her work, even if you don't know her name.
She has a lovely alto voice, the kind I'd call "homely" - a strong northern accent only serves to enhance the songs on this album.
The album isn't available for streaming anywhere that I could find, so I put together this Youtube playlist for your benefit (track #8, "Andrew Lammie", didn't turn up anywhere, but it's my least favorite cut, soooooo...).
I won't go through the tracks individually, but there's a few things worth noting.
I found out about Kate because of track #4, "High on a Hill". The male vocalist on that track is Chris Thile, better known these days as a MacArthur Genius Grant winner, and the new host of Prairie Home Companion. Back then I knew him as Nickel Creek alumni, and one of the Punch Brothers, and although one senses an indefinite hiatus coming on with Punch Brothers, I'm a long-time Thile fan, and still think alto & tenor are a delightful harmonic pairing.
"Blooming Heather", track #11 on the album, takes a very different tack: a more classical/operatic voice provided by John Hudson. It's gilding the lily, in my opinion - somewhat richer than needed, whereas Thile's lighter voice and treatment let track #4 breathe a bit more.
Absolutely my favorite track, though, is #3 - "John Barbury". I haven't listened to it for some years, and in the interim, Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer released a wonderful album called simply "Child Ballads". I won't say too much about it here because I'll be writing about that later on, but it's a collection of traditional ballads that are really not for children at all. I kept thinking "John Barbury" sounded familiar, and that's because it's a variant of "Willie O Winsbury" (Child 100). There's some amazing history on the song here - be sure to scroll to the bottom for the side-by-side lyric comparison. It has a shockingly beautiful tune, and perhaps on this track more than any other, Kate's vocal abilities are highlighted.
The verdict: worth buying, particularly if you're a fan of traditional English and Celtic music and don't know where to start. If you are already listening to Celtic Women, please stop. Buy this instead.