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Make the Light

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Album Review

While Jennifer Saunders might be an obvious port of call for comedians wanting career advice, she's not exactly the first person most folksingers would turn to for help with their latest album. But having performed a cover of the Kinks' "The Village Green Preservation Society" for Saunders' recent BBC comedy, Jam and Jerusalem, the Barnsley Nightingale, aka Kate Rusby, has done just that. Inspired by the Ab Fab star's suggestion that she should release a record composed solely of self-penned songs, the Mercury Music Prize nominee's ninth studio LP, Make the Light, is the first of her 15-year career not to feature any cover versions, a development that has resulted in Rusby's most personal and autobiographical effort to date. Co-produced with brother Joe and featuring husband Damien O'Kane on guitar and tenor banjo, the early tracks, "The Wishing Wife," a jaunty Celtic-tinged jig based on the strange tale of a downtrodden woman turning her husband into a dog, and the gentle protest song "Let Them Fly" ("We will never be charmed by the charmless") suggest the family affair has instilled both a newfound sense of surrealism and political activism. However, the remaining nine tracks opt for a more traditional approach, blending Rusby's charmingly delicate Yorkshire-accented tones with more wistful lyrical themes, uncluttered simple arrangements, and a more melancholic nature, as on the winsome alt-country of "Lately"; the wintry hymnal-like "Green Fields," which would have fit comfortably on Christmas-themed predecessor Sweet Bells; and the enchanting lullaby-esque closing number, "Four Stars." But other than "Walk the Road," a surging collaboration with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band that briefly threatens to break out into a mass singalong, the pace remains resolutely stately throughout, meaning that the likes of the slightly poppy "Only Hope," the double bass/cello-led "Shout to the Devil," and the dreamy "Fair Weather Friend" get lost among the crowd of gentle acoustic ballads. But while Make the Light fails to build on the radical departure promised by its opening numbers, it's still a charming and well-crafted first entirely original effort suggesting that Saunders can also add A&R to her list of many talents. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Kate's best album yet; an audible gem. Your soul will thank you.

For six years I've actively searched for an artist whose style and voice are even comparable to that of Kate Rusby's. I've not been successful, but that's fine by me. Kate's music is simply, beautifully unique. With a voice like the softest velvet, writing both profound and earthly, and music crafted by master artisans, the results rarely disappoint. "Make the Light" is no exception.

In fact, this may very well be Kate Rusby's best album yet, certainly her best since the highly-acclaimed "Underneath the Stars" of 2003. There is a strong sense of growth evident here, both musically and personally. Though certainly not absent in her previous albums, "Make the Light" reflects a wisdom and maturity that stands out to a greater degree as a theme of her songwriting rather than a mere explanation of its quality. Whether or not it's a reflection of the recent changes in the artist's own life, these songs are surely among her most relatable. Stunning vocals aside, the album's instrumentation alone is worth the price of admission--I'd pick up an instrumental version as well if it were available; the raw skill on display here stands on its own. Combined with Kate's golden touch, this is truly an album to be experienced.

Kate Rusby's "Make the Light" does just as the title suggests--it sets alight a beacon of good, rich, well-crafted music for those wary of sound and weary in soul. This is folk music made in heaven, a spot of brilliance that shines, shines, shines.

Biography

Born: December 1, 1973 in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, Englan

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Folk singer/songwriter Kate Rusby has lived in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, since birth, and grew up in a musical family. Her parents had a ceilidh dance band and introduced her to British folk at an early age. Along with her sister, Emma, Rusby joined the band, singing backup...
Full Bio