Light Years, Kate Rusby’s 7th Christmas album and her 22nd in total, is released on December 1st, three days before her fiftieth birthday.
She’s in multiple celebration mode. More than thirty years of pursuing her unique path through the music world have earned her a devoted and loyal fanbase, seen her become a BBC Folk Award winner and a Mercury Prize nominee. Those decades have led Kate to a state of being where the years feel wondrously light – a pleasure and a privilege. In her own words, “I feel so lucky to be still making music after 32 years and even luckier to enjoy it so much.”
Artwork design -Martin Roswell @Simply Marvellous
Christmas is a state of mind for Kate, a way of life. Never mind a month of peace and good will, those Christmas values are buried deep in her DNA and she can’t wait to hit the road for her annual festive tour in December. Full dates below*
For Kate, abiding memories of childhood are full of carols in the tap room of many a Yorkshire pub, surrounded by family, community, warmth, happiness, colouring books and crisps. For many others, the season hasn’t started until a Rusby Christmas album has been aired, or one of the band’s seasonal shindig shows has been attended. Or both!
Any year-weary humbug that may be lingering will disappear after a few bars of Light Years’ opener, ‘Spean’ in the hands of Kate’s fabulous brass boys, arranged by Andrew Duncan. They join her every Christmas to bring their own festive texture. A warm and subtle fanfare lifts us before Kate is straight in with the feelgood factor: “Brightest and best are the songs of the morning… chasing the darkness and shadows all away.”
The first single from the Album ‘Glorious’ (released last Friday) proves categorically that Christmas is not just for Christmas, composed as it was one February when Kate, standing in her snow-laden garden and longing for spring, was captivated by the thought of a lost and broken angel sitting in one of the trees. It’s a song of renewal, healing, hearts of light and wings of love. It’s likely to invoke the presence of those we need to reach out to, or those we have cherished and lost over the years in the most heartening and emotive manner possible.
Here’s the official video:
Picking up where last year’s 30th anniversary album, 30: Happy Returns left off, Light Years offers possibly Kate’s biggest collaborative coup yet with “The Moon Shines Bright”, featuring Alison Krauss and Ron Block. It’s a song Kate holds dear, one that she first sang aged fifteen in a production of The Mystery Plays.
Singing with Alison and Ron felt like the best early birthday present imaginable: “When I was sixteen, my Dad was a sound engineer working at Edale Bluegrass Festival. I was sitting beside him, when onto the stage came Alison Krauss and Union Station, including Ron Block, who plays banjo and sings with Alison after all these years. I was completely blown away and my love of bluegrass began there. I have been a fan of Alison and Ron ever since. Ron has become a dear friend and has recorded on my last few albums, so it feels like we have completed the circle somehow.”
Light Years positively resonates with joy to the world, whether you’re getting your fix of popular classics, traditional carols or just flexing your chuckle muscles ready for another re-run of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special. ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ and a seamless mash-up of ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ and ‘Sleigh Ride’ place an unequivocal tick in the ‘carefree singalong’ box. Unless this is your first foray into a Kate Christmas (honestly – where’ve you been?) you’ll know that the traditional is always Rusbyfied into something refreshingly new. In this case, ‘While Shepherds Watched’ morphs subtly into ‘Rusby Shepherds’. With over thirty versions being sung in Kate’s local pubs, she thought that throwing one more into the mix wouldn’t hurt.
‘Nowell, Nowell’ sits atop the kind of rich musical bed we’ve heard on recent albums, deepened by Moog moods and Damien O’Kane’s lush guitar sounds. A layered and atmospheric cover of ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ similarly shimmers. In glorious contrast, the Chris Sugden (aka Sid Kipper) parody ‘Arrest These Merry Gentlemen’ will put listeners in light-hearted humour.
The simple beauty of Kate’s voice and Damien’s guitar on album closer, ‘Joseph’ signs off with a warm embrace. Light Years is one visitor you’ll invite back, without reservation, year after year. If the 2020s have felt somehow heavy and occasionally overshadowed by darker days (as they have done for many of us), let Kate Rusby switch on the illuminations for the end of your 2023 and invest you with hope for your 2024.
Crank up Light Years and raise a glass – to the year gone by, to the year ahead, to 32 years of Rusby recordings and 50 years of Kate.
*Light Years Christmas Tour Dates 2023
December 7 York Barbican, YORK
December 8 St. George’s Hall, BRADFORD
December 10 Cambridge Corn Exchange, CAMBRIDGE
December 11 Cadogan Hall, LONDON
December 12 Brighton Dome, BRIGHTON
December 14 Sheffield City Hall, SHEFFIED
December 16 BIRMINGHAM Town Hall MATINEE SHOW
December 16 BIRMINGHAM Town Hall EVENING SHOW
December 17 Bristol Beacon, BRISTOL
December 18 Theatre Royal Concert Hall, NOTTINGHAM
December 20 The Glasshouse ICfM, GATESHEAD
December 21 Bridgewater Hall, MANCHESTER
Pre-order Light Years : https://PureRecords.lnk.to/LightYears.
For all further information please visit :katerusby.com
📷Featured image David Angel