ANOTHER stuffed-to-the-gunnels Celtic Connections sellout at the Concert Hall saw Barnsley songbird Kate Rusby, like the festival, celebrating two decades in the business with a lavish line-up of special guests, all of whom feature on her new anniversary album 20.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Since going solo in the late 1990s, after early spells in a duo with Kathryn Roberts and then in the Poozies, Rusby’s warm-bath brand of contemporary folk has proved remarkably consistent, both musically and in its steadily expanding popularity, winning numerous fans outwith the habitual folk audience. So the lack of surprises here was no surprise, especially given the occasion’s retrospective aspects, with unerringly classy, tasteful arrangements from a typically crème-de-la-crème instrumental line-up of such longtime pals as Michael McGoldrick on whistles, guitarist John Doyle, accordionist Julian Sutton, John Joe Kelly on bodhran and double bassist Duncan Lyall, plus a string quartet on several numbers.
Adding an extra touch of stardust was Alison Krauss’s banjo player Ron Block, representing the album’s considerable contingent of Stateside talent, together with singer and mandolinist Sarah Jarosz, who added suitably haunting harmonies to Rusby’s lush, lovely rendition of The Unquiet Grave. Generally, though, the vocal guests, also including Eddi Reader, Dick Gaughan and Jim Causley, seemed distinctly underused (mostly for the choruses) while the set list leaned too heavily towards Rusby’s own forgettably undemanding material, rather than the traditional fare with which she first made her name – too heavily for these tastes, anyway, though amid a delighted crowd I was evidently and emphatically in the minority.