KATE RUSBY – Sweet Bells (Pure Records PRCD33)

The distinctive, almost waif-like vocals of Kate Rusby opens this seasonal recording (now re-packaged using a suitably Christmas themed painting by Marie Mills) with a bright and breezy “Here We Come A-Wassailing” featuring the rhythmic/lead interplay between Anna Massie’s cittern and Ian Carr’s guitar, joined by squeezebox maestro Andy Cutting and the gently pulsating bass of Andy Seward. It’s gorgeous stuff particularly the precision of the cleanly picked high notes Carr infuses leaving the listener with an almost visual image of gently falling snow. Clever and imaginative re-workings of predominantly traditional songs incorporating that oh, so Yorkshire sound of brass bands (I’m thinking Peter Skellern here for those old enough to remember) provides the recording with some real ‘meat’ although not too heavy as to distract or offend delicate ears. If you hadn’t guessed it already, I’m totally smitten with this wonderful addition to my favourite time of year and I just wish I could transport this sound along with a church choir to regale a residential home or two. The inclusion of standards such as “Hark The Herald” and “The Holly And The Ivy” nestle snugly amongst new songs (to me anyway) and have re-awakened my interest in carols. On a production shared between Kate and brother Joe the crisp sound and energy is to be applauded, as is the digital dexterity of all the musicians involved. This is a recording that should be savoured much like the dinner I’ll be playing it at on Christmas Day. As Scrooge might have said “God bless us everyone!”

PETE FYFE

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Artist’s website: www.katerusby.com