Kate Rusby: Philosophers, Poets & Kings

Yorkshire Nightingale

Listening Post 238. There’s an exquisite equilibrium to Kate Rusby’s voice, at once celestial and cozy, planting a wistful note in the most comical saga and a vein of comfort in the most tragic. On Philosophers, Poets & Kings, her seventeenth solo album, the folksinger-songwriter covers a sweeping range of experience and emotion drawn mostly from her South Yorkshire surroundings—old and new tales of wine and wisdom, celebration and gravity—based on characters intimately real or just as intimately mythical. Rusby was born into a musical family in Barnsley and in her teens was already one of Britain’s best-known traditional singers. She was a rare folk artist nominated for a Mercury Prize (given annually for best album in the British Isles) and has won four BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. All acoustic for most of her career, she has in recent years discretely integrated electronics—aided by husband-guitarist Damien O’Kane—into her sound arsenal. She wrote Until Morning to offer solace to a friend who was in the “deepest, darkest hour” and who passed away not long after the album’s release (video 1). The Farmer’s Toast is a traditional drinking anthem, enchantingly reprised to honor the planter family that hosts the Rusby clan’s annual Underneath the Stars music and arts festival (video 2). The drinking takes an erudite turn in the title track (video 3), evoking Plato and Socrates and carrying an elegant echo of Monty Python’s Philosophers Song. The collection’s most stunning chapter, Halt the Wagons, recalls an 1838 flood that killed 26 children working in a South Yorkshire mine—for which Rusby enlisted members from the Barnsley Youth Choir (the same ages and gender makeup as the victims) to give the song blazing immediacy (videos 4 and 5). More than the most philosophical chronicler, this timeless nightingale of folk brings—and sings—history and legend to life. (Pure Records)

Philosophers, Poets & Kings
Kate Rusby: Vocals
Damien O’Kane: Guest vocals, acoustic and electric guitars
Sam Kelly: Guest vocals
Barnsley Youth Choir: Guest vocals
Chas MacKenzie: Electric guitar
Duncan Lyall: Moog, double bass
Anthony Davis: Piano, keys, synths
Nick Cooke: Diatonic accordion
Michael McGoldrick: Whistles, flute
Ross Ainslie: Whistles
Ron Block: Banjo
Josh Clark: Percussion
Gary Wyatt: Cornet
Rich Evans: Flugelhorn
Sam Pearce: French horn
Robin Taylor: Euphonium
Mike Levis: Tuba

 

Until Morning
Lyrics & Music: Kate Rusby

In the deepest darkest hour/
Where the strongest soul will cower
And it feels like it’s so long ‘til morning
I know you’re weary head needs rest/
And we both know you’ve done your best
So I’ll hold your hand until the day
comes dawning.

I know the world’s been cruel of late/And your heart can’t bear the weight
And it feels like it’s so long ’til morning
But together we are bound/So I will keep you safe and sound
And I’ll hold your hand until the day comes dawning.

Don’t worry let the night go drifting by
And tomorrow you can fly.

In the dark night you are lost/
Counting stars to count the cost
And it feels like it’s so long ’til morning
So I will catch the moon’s bright beams/To guide you gently to your dreams
And I’ll hold your hand until the day comes dawning

When there’s stillness all around/And your heart’s a deafening sound
And it feels like it’s so long ’til morning
I will stay with you old friend/
So you can heal and you can mend
And I’ll hold your hand until the day comes dawning

Don’t worry let the night go drifting by
And tomorrow you will fly

Now it’s time to make your peace/Into the night your fears release
And it feels like it’s so long ’til morning
So we will claim the night for ours/And we won’t see the dark for stars….
And I’ll hold your hand until the day comes dawning

Don’t worry let the night go drifting by/And tomorrow you will fly
And tomorrow you will fly

 

The Farmer’s Toast
Traditional

Come all jolly fellows who delight in being mellow/Attend unto me, don’t be lazy
For a pint when it’s quiet, come all let us try it/For thinking can make a man crazy

Come sit at my table, as many as able/I’ll hear not one word of complaining
For the tinkling of glasses, all 
music surpasses/I long to see bottles a draining

I have lawns, I have bowers/
I have fields, I have flowers
And the lark is my daily alarmer
So jolly boys now, who follow the plough
A health and success to the farmer

For here I am king I can laugh drink 
and sing/Let no-one approach as a stranger
Just show me the ass who refuses a glass/And I’ll treat him to hay in a manger

I have lawns, I have bowers/I have fields, I have flowers
And the lark is my daily alarmer
So jolly boys now, who follow the plough/A health and success to the farmer

Let the wealthy and great be in splendor and state/I envy them not I declare it
I eat my own ham, my own chickens and lamb/I shear my own sheep and I wear it

I have lawns, I have bowers/I have fields, I have flowers
And the lark is my daily alarmer
So jolly boys now, who follow the plough
A health and success to the farmer

Were it not for my seeding you’d all have poor feeding/I’m sure you would all starve without me
But I am content when I’ve just paid the rent/I’m happy when friends are around me

I have lawns, I have bowers/I have fields, I have flowers
And the lark is my daily alarmer
So jolly boys now, who follow the plough
A health and success to the farmer

 

Philosophers, Poets and Kings
Lyrics: Traditional, Kate Rusby / Music: Kate Rusby

Diogenes surly and proud/He snarled at the tearaway youth
He delighted in wine, wine that was good/
Because in good wine there 
was truth

Oh for good wine/Oh for the pleasure it brings
If it wasn’t for wine we couldn’t sing/Of philosophers, poets and kings

Democritus’ wine was well stored/With wine he suffered no wrath
And when he was drunk, as drunk as a lord/At those who were sober he’d laugh

Oh for good wine/Oh for the pleasure it brings
If it wasn’t for wine we couldn’t sing/Of philosophers, poets and kings

Copernicus had wine in his veins/It made his philosophy reel
Then fancied the world, just like his brains/Turned round like a chariot wheel

Oh for good wine/Oh for the pleasure it brings
If it wasn’t for wine we couldn’t sing/Of philosophers, poets and kings

Aristotle that master of arts/Had been but a dunce without wine
For what we ascribe, ascribe to his parts/Was due to the juice of the vine

Oh for good wine/Oh for the pleasure it brings
If it wasn’t for wine we couldn’t sing/Of philosophers, poets and kings

Old Plato was reckoned divine/Who wisely, to kindness was prone
But had it not been down to good wine/His merit had never been known

Oh for good wine/Oh for the pleasure it brings
If it wasn’t for wine we couldn’t sing/Of philosophers, poets and kings.

 

Halt the Wagons
Lyrics & Music: Kate Rusby

From the album notes: “July 4th 2018 was 180th anniversary of the Huskar Pit disaster, where 26 children working in the mine lost their lives when a freak storm flooded the steam engine, called The Black Horse, which pulled the cage and coal up and down the mine shaft. The children panicked, and ran to a different part of the mine, which then flooded when the stream burst its banks. They were trapped: 15 boys, 11 girls, aged 7-17 years old, drowned. They were found with arms around each other for comfort. The children were brought back to the village of Silkstone on carts. The tragedy came to the attention of Queen Victoria, and led to a Royal Commission and a law prohibiting women and children under 10 working underground. I was asked by Sylvia Le Breton, who I’ve known since childhood, to write a song to commemorate the disaster, it was an honour. Here we are joined by 26 members of Barnsley Youth Choir, 15 boys and 11 girls, their ages 7-17. Together we went underground at The National Coal Mining Museum of England to film and record the children singing on the song. They were brilliant.” (Lyrics followed by “Behind the Scenes” video.)

Stop now, halt the wagons/It’s too much for me to bear
To see my baby sleeping/In the cart laying there
Oh take me Lord and 
keep me/Please don’t leave me here
For I cannot keep breathing/He was all I held dear

Hush now, don’t cry/
As you hear my lullaby
Hush now don’t cry/
As you hear my lullaby

From the Black Horse there was silence/As the storm raged up above
So desperate was the tempest/To steal the one I love
Oh nature sick with vengeance/As we carve up her tongue
Tiny arms around each other/Her work here done

Hush now, don’t cry/
As you hear my lullaby
Hush now don’t cry/
As you hear my lullaby

Children are the future/Children are a gift
But these are children of the darkness/With a twelve hour shift
So take him Lord, be gentle/With his tired, weary bones
Now I’m a mother of 
the darkness/
For he’ll never come home

We do not mine for riches/We do not mine from love
But merely to keep the food on our tables above
So I’ll dry up my tears now/Keep his soul in my heart….
And call up the wagons/
So the next shift can start

Hush now, don’t cry/
As you hear my lullaby
Hush now don’t cry/
As you hear my lullaby

Please hear my lullaby

 

Halt the Wagons, Behind the Scenes

 


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