30: Happy Returns
It's time for Kate Rusby to celebrate, again. She's previously marked every ten years of her career with reworked versions of some of her own favourite recordings. Following on from her albums '10' and '20', she's thrown open the doors of the recording studio for more guests to join in the celebration of passing her 30th career year on '30: Happy Returns'.
Those 'happy returns' in the punning title of the album number 15 reworked tracks plus a commissioned song on the CD version ('Secret Keeper' with the Royal Northern Sinfonia) and a generous 71 minutes of listening time. As we've now come to expect, the songs are a mixture of traditional songs and Kate Rusby self compositions. In this case, taken from the albums released, inclusively, between 1999's 'Sleepless' and 2019's 'Philosophers, Poets and Kings'.
No better example of the benefits of reworking older songs can be found than the opening track, 'We Will Sing'. Originally on the 'Ghost' album, this version includes vocal backing and a verse in their own language from the legendary South African choir, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Apparently, Kate Rusby's jaw hit the floor at their agreement to contribute to a song which she felt called out for their distinctive singing. You're likely to be equally thrilled.
Other vocal contributions come from Richard Hawley, Darlingside, KT Tunstall, Sarah Jarosz, Sam Kelly, Dan Tyminski and Beth Nielsen Chapman. Of course, husband Damien O'Kane makes several inputs not only as musician but also as producer and band leader. Having such a stellar cast of guest vocalists doesn't detract from the quality of Kate Rusby's own vocal which stands out as ever. However, neither does it always mean the guest vocal adds significantly to these new versions of some of her 'oldies'. Having said that, the album does work well for the casual folk fan as it's, effectively, an enhanced 'Greatest Hits' collection. You also get the benefits of Damien O'Kane's refreshing productions. So, an album for dedicated fans and relative newcomers to Barnsley's finest.