tue 23/07/2024

CD: Kate Rusby - While Mortals Sleep | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Kate Rusby - While Mortals Sleep

CD: Kate Rusby - While Mortals Sleep

'Barnsley Nightingale' recasts carols as attractive, if slightly serious, folk songs

Kate Rusby's Xmas: serious reflection

Christmas albums are often a time to forget about the other 11 months of the year and get stuck into some festive silliness. Not for Kate Rusby. On this, her second volume of carols inspired by the South Yorkshire tradition, she’s still doggedly plying her trade, recasting some well-known and other unfamiliar Christmas melodies as simple hearth-side folk songs.

The result may not be the sort of thing Jim Royle would open presents to, but it’s sure Christmassy in a soft, poignant and delicately beautiful way.

While Mortals Sleep’s mix of folk, Yorkshire and Christmas is never better encapsulated than in the opening song, “Cranbrook”, where “While Shepherd’s Watched” is set to the tune of “On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At”. With its guitar, accordion and brass band, it’s rootsy and warm, and despite this being one of only a handful of upbeat tracks, Rusby’s voice is vespers soft whilst her accent is as broad as the Dales. The album’s overriding sense of reflection, however, may divide listeners. Some will find it excessively subdued, whilst others, especially folk fans, will marvel at its wholesome beauty. However, if Rusby doesn’t have quite the sense of “joy to the world” she had with 2008’s Sweet Bells, there’s more than enough cosiness on offer here.

There's nothing more fuzzy than the self-penned “Home”, for instance. One of the album’s highlights, it’s just the sort of thing to snuggle up on the sofa to with a glass of mulled wine. Although some of the lesser-known numbers like “Diadem” and “The Wren” feel more like sitting in Church, the “ho-ho-ing” of “Kris Kringle” halfway through brings a welcome note of frivolity to proceedings. And whilst Roy Wood and Wizzard this most certainly isn’t, it’s bound to become a cherished part of many serious music fans’ Yuletide music collection.

Kate Rusby performs "Sweet Bells" on Songs of Praise

Christmassy in a soft, poignant and delicately beautiful way


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article


The acoustics are amazing in this video. Compliments her voice so much.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters