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KATE RUSBY "Live In Leeds - DVD" Pure Records 2003 PRDVD15

I was lucky enough to be at Leeds City Varieties the night this DVD was recorded, and it's wonderful to be able to enjoy a finished product of such excellent quality. There are precious few live acoustic/folk DVDs and videos available these days, and this is a very classy product - I'd say it was a must for any Kate Rusby fan! The live concert itself is just short of 90 minutes duration, and there's over an hour of extra features.

I can vouch for the fact that the marvelous acoustics of the 'Verts' (as the Varieties is known locally) are reproduced beautifully on the DVD. The recording quality is exceptionally good (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound), and the camerawork is first rate too. Rusby was on excellent vocal form that night as she worked her way through some of her finest material, superbly assisted by John McCusker, Andy Cutting, Ian Carr, Michael McGoldrick and Ewen Vernal - with a brief guest appearance by Andy Seward. The biggest 'plus' of this DVD is that it captures perfectly Rusby's humour and north-country warmth, her empathy with the audience (they look genuinely happy to be there, and even join in the singing!), and her banter with the band - none of it is lost, and director Janet Fraser Crook has done well to preserve these 'key' ingredients. Perhaps the most charming touch of all is when Rusby's young nephews climb the stage steps to introduce the band - all of this seems to justify Rusby's instinctive decision to film in Yorkshire.

There's a fine range of songs from Rusby's impressive back catalogue. Too many highlights to mention, but I'd single out I Courted A Sailor, The Goodman, The Cobbler's Daughter, Let Me Be, Sir Eglamore and Underneath The Stars as my own favourites on that particular evening. There's also a great set of tunes by the boys, and a further inspired addition is the very funny The Yorkshire Couple, sung a cappella and aided by much audience participation. Great to have this one preserved for posterity! The accompanying musicianship is exceptional, and the camerawork and sound reproduction are top quality.

The extra features add extra value - you get a video diary, a short acoustic session recorded in Rusby's home studio, a band biography, behind the scenes footage, and best of all, some very insightful interviews with both Rusby and McCusker. These interviews by Andy Kershaw tease out some fascinating detail about Rusby's early career (including her stints with Kathryn Roberts, Equation and The Poozies). Most interesting to me were John McCusker's comments, which more or less confirm his profoundly important influence on Rusby's career, bringing her into contact with the Celtic and acoustic world's very finest musicians - and they're all on stage with her in Leeds!

This DVD is essential for any Kate Rusby fan - enjoy!

Debbie Koristas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.