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KATE RUSBY & KATHRYN ROBERTS Pure Records PRCD01

Kate and Kathryn have been immersed in the tradition since they were tots, both come from families well-known in the folk world, and they are amongst the best of our young performers. Fine singers with distinctive voices (Kathryn won the '95 Young Tradition Award), and between them they play piano, guitar, fiddle, flute, clarinet and saxophone - all to considerable effect. This, their first recording as a duo, contains songs from diverse sources, with the emphasis mainly on the traditional, but there is contemporary material as well.

The album opens with Kate taking lead vocals in a sympathetic version of "The Recruited Collier"; this is followed by a thoughtful, delicate treatment of "Ned on the Hill" with Kathryn's full and mellow voice to the fore. This high standard is maintained! A slow, languorous "Courting Is A Pleasure"; Susanne Vega's difficult and demanding "The Queen and the Soldier" handled superbly; a mature and sensitive treatment of Steve Knightley's "Exile"; and a bright unaccompanied tongue-twisting "Hunting the Hare" which able demonstrates just now well these two voices work together. They sing with a rare blend of assurance and authority, and their background shows in the skill and sophistication of both the singing and the arrangements. They have taken several club "standards", looked at them with fresh eyes, and re-worked them, accompanying richly accomplished singing with essentially simple, economic arrangements, and they breathe new life into them. "Dark Eyed Sailor" loses all trace of Steeleye Span's "definitive" version, whilst Kathryn's interpretation of "The Constant Lovers" puts me much in mind of June Tabor.

Kate and Kathryn's voices work so well together, complementing and enhancing, with freshness and enthusiasm, and it's really good to hear the natural unaffected Northern accent coming through on the songs! I can do no better than quote Steve Knightley's view on this CD, "Buy it - it's a fine recording!". Says it all really.

Mel Howley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 12 of The Living Tradition magazine.