Kate Rusby, Awkward Annie (Pure Records, 2007)

She may have an enviably youthful appearance and demeanor, but South Yorkshire native Kate Rusby has been part of the English folk scene for over fifteen years. Rusby has built her reputation with an endearing combination of rustic Engligh charm and one of the sweetest voices in all of music. On her latest album, called Awkward Annie, she mixes traditional songs with a bunch of her own compostions, maintaining the standard of quality she has set for herself.

While her voice dominates the proceedings, Rusby benefits from a stellar core of supporting musicians, including multi-instrumentalist John McCusker, guitarists Ian Carr and John Doyle, Chris Thile from the fine American band Nickel Creek, and several members of the renowned Scottish group Capercaillie. The song styles range from Rusby's trademark sad ballads to more lighthearted, humorous songs. The darker material might not be for everybody, but Rusby is skilled at capturing the emotion of a song, and her voice makes any melody sound golden. I'm a bit more partial to the humorous pieces, though, particularly "The Old Man," a song about a farmer and his wife who trade roles for a day. (Spoiler alert: the husband gets the worse of it.) My favorite track on Awkward Annie is actually the bonus track, a cover of The Kinks' "The Village Green Preservation Society." Ray Davies has always had a more distinctively English lyrical style than any of his rock contemporaries, and this song in particular just seems like it was meant for a good folksinger to sing.

Kate Rusby was a delight to see perform when I saw her in Manhattan a few years back. Awkward Annie reflects the same combination of laughter, emotion, and grace that makes Rusby worth seeing in person.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

An interview with Kate Rusby, followed by a performance of the old folk standard "Blooming Heather" which she recorded for this album.

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