BARNSLEY nightingale Kate Rusby has marked her 25th year on the folk circuit by recording her fourth album of Christmas and winter festive songs, Angels & Men, supported by a tour that arrives at Leeds Town Hall tomorrow.

Released by Pure Records, the album follows on from her past sets of South Yorkshire pub versions of carols and winter works: Sweet Bells in 2008, While Mortals Sleep in 2011 and The Frost Is All Over two years ago.

Here Kate discusses her latest venture into the winter wonderland of Christmas records with Charles Hutchinson.

Angels & Men is your fourth Christmas album, Kate. That's surely a record number! How easy is it to keep discovering South Yorkshire variations on While Shepherds Watched?

"My fourth Christmas album! It sounds crazy doesn’t it when you say it out loud! It’s also my 15th solo album, which sounds even dafter! He he! The South Yorkshire carol treasure trove is still brimming with amazing versions of While Shepherds Watched.

"Luckily for me, there are over 30 different versions, so I still have plenty to choose from, along with so many other amazing carols and songs. I feel so lucky to have been brought up learning these songs; I really do feel such a connection with them and love showing them off around the country."

York Press:

Kate Rusby's album artwork for Angels & Men

How does Angels & Men differ in terms of sound and production from past Kate at Christmas albums? Husband Damien O’Kane's influence as producer is coming through strongly, isn't it?

"Ooh well, Damien had more time in the production seat for this Christmas album, so I think it is quite different to the last Christmas album The Frost Is All Over. When I’ve left the studio to go pick the kids up from school, he will stay up there experimenting with sounds and delays.

"He usually comes home with a CD to let me hear what he’s been working on to see if I like it. We agree on most things though, so it’s a really exciting time making albums. I mostly have a mental picture of what a song will look like when it’s finished, but with all Damien’s extra flourishes it gives the music another dimension, I love it."

Why did you choose the title Angels & Men?

"It’s from the lyrics of the first track Hark Hark: 'Angels and men with one accord'. I love album titles to come from lyrics, and I thought it would lend itself to bonnie imagery, and it meant I got to wear huge wings [for the album photos]. Happy girl!"

You have covered a Richard Thompson song, We’ll Sing Hallelujah. What do you like about his songwriting?

"I’ve been a fan of Richard’s for years. My parents had Richard and Linda Thompson albums when I was young; I loved them together, and I love them still separately too! I worked with them both over the years and they are really inspiring people.

"Richard has written so many beautiful songs. I love his tunes, and his lyrics are so clever but appear simple; best kind of songwriting I think! I’ve been wanting to record this song for a few years but I was waiting for an album it would sit nicely on. I love how it’s turned out; the brass are immense on it, they take it soaring away."

York Press:

"Little quirky Christmas songs are quite hard to come by," says Kate Rusby

Where did you first hear Santa Never Brings Me A Banjo, one of the unfamiliar numbers on Angels & Men?

"It was written by a Canadian fella called David Myles. Somebody posted it on Damien’s Facebook page about three years ago, because he is a banjo player of course, and I loved it. Little quirky Christmas songs are quite hard to come by, so I mentally stored it away for the next Christmas album. We have the fabulous Ron Block playing on it. Ron is a a banjo god, we love him!"

Sammy Cahn and Jules Styne's Let It Snow is new Christmas territory for you: certainly not a South Yorkshire pub carol. What makes it a Christmas classic?

"Yes, not sung much in the pubs, is it! I’ve always loved Let It Snow. Let’s face it, snow is magical, it’s so exciting when we get some. Even now, at the age of 43, I get so giddy when it snows, but of course it’s even better when you have nowhere to go and you can play in it. It’s the perfect snow song, and very familiar to people so they sing along."

What was the inspiration for your new composition Let The Bells Ring, maybe one of your Rusby Christmas walks?

"I was in our music room at the piano playing for our ghost, and the song started to form. It’s usually tune first, then lyrics, and the lyrics that were forming just lent itself to the Christmas album. I love the turn of the year, leaving crappy bits behind and the hope and excitement of the new. Going down to the sea to welcome the sunrise at New Year felt like a lovely thing to do, send the old year out on the tide and welcome the sun on the new year."

You must have had fun giving your tea-drinking superhero from Barnsley a new challenge for Christmas in the album's closing song, Big Brave Bill Saves Christmas...

"Oh yes, I love thinking up new adventures for him! My girls Daisy and Phoebe are in this version too. He started out as a bedtime story for them, so I thought it only fair that they meet him! They are even in the new animation too. It’s also a bit of a warning for them, 'cos when it snows we go sledging in the park; at the bottom of the hill there's a cascade that does sometimes freeze and looks very tempting, so hopefully they’ll take heed!"

York Press:

"I'm fed up smelling of goose fat all Christmas Day!" says Kate Rusby, who will be turning to turkey this Christmas

How will you be decking the Rusby stage for this Christmas tour?

"You’ll have to come along. The lights are totally amazing this year; our lighting man Dave Catley has done us proud! Not telling, though. You’ll have to wait and see! I will say that Ruby Reindeer is with us again though!"

Christmas chez Rusby this year: what’s in store?

"Turkey, not goose, this year! I'm fed up smelling of goose fat all Christmas Day! I’m going to make my chicken liver parfait next week; mum has already made the Christmas pud. Ooh I’m getting hungry!! There will be music, lights, presents, glitter and sparkle I think…and fingers crossed for snow."

Kate Rusby At Christmas, Leeds Town Hall, tomorrow (December 8), 7.30pm. Box office: 0113 376 0318 or

Kate Rusby's Angels & Men is available on CD and vinyl from