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Live Music Review Kate Rusby, Kings Place, London

The ‘Barnsley Nightingale’ delivers a joyous set of songs, old and new

AT THE age of only 45, Kate Rusby has already attained national treasure status, certainly in the English folk world but possibly even beyond that.

Yet there’s no sign that she’s resting on her laurels. On this third date of an intermittent spring tour, she provides ample proof not only that her songwriting skills are as sharp as ever but that the inspiration continues to flow.

Mainly, that evidence comes in the shape of some fine compositions from her forthcoming album Philosophers, Poets and Kings, due out next month. But it also shines through in a performance that demonstrates how much joy she still derives from songs and singing.

Among the new offerings are her latest upbeat single, Jenny, about the travails and triumphs of a Yorkshire racehorse, with the words extracted from an old ballad book and the melody created by Rusby herself. The album’s title song is constructed in much the same way.

In all, we get four new compositions, including the encore As The Lights Go Out. It’s a typically beguiling slice of Rusby lullaby music written, she tells us, in a contemplative night-time moment at the Underneath the Stars festival which she organises annually.

Otherwise, we’re treated to a selection of more familiar songs — Benjamin Bowmaneer, The Lark, I Courted a Sailor and Awkward Annie among them — without ever straying into full-blown greatest-hits territory.

As Rusby clearly still has much of her best work ahead of her, she justifiably feels there’s no need to dwell too much on past achievements.

With husband Damien O’Kane anchoring her talented four-piece band behind her — and providing a rousing “manly interlude” of three songs while she goes to replenish her tea mug — the evening provides just the right balance of dance music, balladeering and storytelling.

All the while, with mug in hand, Rusby lets us gently into her world with tales of home life and wider inspirations.

Tour details: katerusby.com

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