English folkie remains grounded
On “Game of All Fours,” the opening track from The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly, Kate Rusby displays all that’s best about her music and the modern English folk song in general. A gorgeously simple lyric and tune blossom under Rusby and husband/producer John McCusker’s arrangement—full of gentle brass backgrounds and emotive holding patterns—allowing the song to simmer in its own musical and lyrical innuendo. It’s an alchemy Rusby discovered on Underneath the Stars, her “folk music for people who don’t like folk music” breakthrough, and which she nurtures throughout Girl on songs ancient (“Bonny House of Airlie”), modern (her own “The El?n Knight”) and combinations thereof (“A Ballad,” traditional lyrics set to Rusby’s music). The results are far less compelling when Rusby and McCusker steer from traditionally informed arrangements, like on pedestrian singer/songwriter effort “Moon Shadow” and the ill-advised version of “You Belong to Me.” While some nods to the modern-pop zeitgeist work (Graham Coxon’s cover art), others (Idlewild singer Roddy Woomble’s vocals) prove considerably less harmonious.