Rusby autumn tour 

Kate Rusby Autumn Tour

Malvern Theatres


As always, Kate Rusby seems genuinely delighted to be performing in Malvern.

The evening is one of her dates from her 25-year anniversary tour, and Rusby shares songs from her impressive back catalogue, adding personal anecdotes and family news along the way.

Accompanied on stage by ‘the boys’: Duncan Lyall on double bass and Moog, Steve Byrnes on bouzouki, tenor guitar and guitar, Nick Cooke on diatonic accordion, and husband Damien O'Kane on guitar, tenor guitar and banjo, Rusby jokes about how strange it is being in Malvern in October rather than at Christmas, and chats about shopping in the local Wilko, before launching into her first number.

She is a regular at Malvern Theatres with her Christmas show, and addresses the audience as if she knows us all well, updating us with tales of her daughters and Doris the dog (plus a newly adopted pooch). She talks about her life as a child, being immersed in the folk scene from an early age, being woken up in the mornings by her dad playing banjo on the end of her bed to stop her lying in late.

Rusby begins with Benjamin Bowmaneer, a strange tale of a tailor who chases a flea on a horse that he has made, then kills the flea by skewering him through the ear with a pin, before holding a funeral for the poor flea. As Rusby explains, ‘there’s space for everything in folk’.

From that first track on her latest and 14th studio album (the 2016 Life on a Paper Boat) we go right back to her now twenty-year-old first album Hourglass. Sir Eglamore tells of a valiant knight and of course the dragon he plans to slay. She takes great joy in showing us the trousers she wore on that album cover, unearthed in a recent clear-out, and later shares a few more finds with us including her old Girl Guides uniform, which, apparently, she has still not grown out of. Rusby half laments the absence of her Christmas brass section, then decides she quite likes having more space to herself on the stage.

Over the evening she includes songs which span her career as a performer, joking that she now has more albums than Madonna, ‘and not a cone in sight!’


She talks about composing The Lark after watching these beautiful birds whilst on a break from recording at their hillside studio. She urges the audience to join in with We Will Sing, then warns of heartbreak in songs like William and Davy and The Ardent Shepherdess. Before the break, we hear Rusby’s version of Village Green Preservation Society and how she came to be asked by Jennifer Saunders to record it as the soundtrack to the BBC sitcom Jam and Jerusalem.

After the break we hear more about Yorkshire traditions during introductions to tracks such as The Pace Egging Song, of old friends now no longer with us, and of childhood memories of rapper dancing and the prejudices of the old time ‘folk police’.

Rusby leaves the stage for a while and her musicians play us three tunes, one written by Damien for his dad, another written by Duncan for his old dog before she returns, most amused by her costume change, to sing the title track from her 2007 album Awkward Annie.

The band members manage to slip in the odd bar of Christmas music throughout the evening, and there is much humour in the whole performance. We hear the tale of Big Brave Bill, the Barnsley superhero who ‘drinks Yorkshire tea all the time’. This is their ‘final’ song of the night, but Rusby hints that they might know a couple more songs that they could play us if we clap loudly enough. Indeed there is rapturous applause, and the encore includes Under the Stars, now the name of Rusby’s own folk festival which she enthuses about and invites us all to attend.

At one point in the evening, Rusby’s husband proudly lists some of his wife’s achievements and accolades: Mercury Prize, Folk Singer of the Year, Best Live Act, Best Album and Best Original Song winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, two honorary doctorates and most impressive of all – Freeman of Barnsley. But more importantly, he praises her as a humble singer songwriter who is a joy to work alongside.

A fine performance, although I too couldn’t help thinking of Christmas and wishing for a few festive tunes thrown in for old time’s sake. Rusby has a handful of October dates remaining before beginning her annual Christmas tour.

Amy Rainbow


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