Kate Rusby ~ Birmingham Town Hall, Thursday 10th December

Last night, my partner and I got a bus into Birmingham city centre to see Kate Rusby at the Town Hall. We have been fans of Kate Rusby for a little while now and jumped at the chance of being able to see her perform live. I was especially enamoured with the idea of seeing her when I saw that she was to be putting on a Christmas themed concert.

We knew though, that with Kate, it wouldn’t simply be Christmas carols as we probably knew them and we were right. She sang a selection of traditional carols she grew up with in South Yorkshire.

Kate was accompanied by her partner, Damien O’ Kane on guitar and banjo, along with another guitarist, a double bassist and a brass quintet. The stage was black, save for a sparkly Christmas tree adorned with Santa hats. The atmosphere was really merry and relaxed and that was mainly due to Kate’s incredibly infectious personality and brilliant camaraderie with her band of boys.

What I have always loved about Kate Rusby’s songs, is that she never tries to hide her native Yorkshire accent. I’m a Midlands girl, born in Nottingham and have always felt more of an affinity to the north and I just love the Yorkshire accent.

Kate was so down to earth and funny and she really engaged with the audience. There were no pretensions, it felt like being in a pub rather than a concert hall and Kate herself made us all laugh when she said at one point “it’s like being a proper singer, in’t it?”

….and of course there was her singing voice. She has such a beautiful, clear and melodious voice and she sang so well last night. It was wonderful to be in the same room as that voice.

At one point, I was actually in tears as she sang My Young Man. A song she wrote in tribute to her grandma. It was incredibly moving and I couldn’t stop the tears from falling.

She also sang one of my favourite songs, Underneath The Stars. I love the wonderful guitar in this song, and the brass quintet really shone too, but nothing can take away from Kate’s beautiful, achingly sweet voice in this song.

I’m keeping an eye on her website for future concerts, because while we loved the Christmas theme to this concert, I think we’d love even more to hear her perform some more songs from her various albums.

It was a wonderful concert last night and really helped get into the Christmas spirit.

Mind you, the garlic bread and frankfurter sausages courtesy of the German Christmas Market also assisted with that!

***photos taken from official Kate Rusby website***

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Cris Ortega ~ Forgotten

I have referred to Cris Ortega in a previous post and it seems fitting to devote a post to her since I got into her as a result of looking for artists in the same sort of vein as Victoria Frances.

Cris Ortega also hails from Spain and she has published two equally lavish books with Norma Editorial (publishers of Victoria Frances’ work) in her Forgotten series. This series is a collection of haunting tales, beautifully illustrated and well told.

The stories are filled with haunted houses, tragic passions and restless spirits.

I love the atmosphere in Cris Ortega’s images and the realism, especially in the faces.

Call me superficial, but again, I love the prettiness of the women and the gorgeous dresses they wear so well.

There’s something so…..smooth about the images. Like looking on a dream.

Most of her images are quite dark, but every now and then, she produces these wonderful images where everything seems to glow, with a real warmth.

I find it amazing, the depth and emotion she works into the facial expressions of her ladies. There’s always a hint that things aren’t all what they seem. This next image is a perfect example. There’s a real sense of sadness and vulnerability in her pose, but there’s nothing vulnerable about the deadly knife she’s holding so close.

I only hope that there are more books to come.

The Gothic Art of Victoria Frances & Joseph Vargo

I thought I would do a post about Victoria Frances and Joseph Vargo together since I got into them at around the same time. I love Victoria Frances’ depictions of dark, mournful women, especially as they are usually wearing the sort of dresses and corsets that I have always been drawn to.

I’ve always loved darkly romantic settings like forests, graveyards, snowy landscapes, haunted castles. There’s something so deliciously mysterious about Gothic tales and Victoria Frances really captures all of that for me in her images.

Victoria Frances has produced 3 lavish and lovely hardback books in her Favole series. Obviously, the big attraction for me is the art, but the images are accompanied by quotes from novels such as Dracula, and also Victoria Frances’ own words. I own the series in Victoria Frances’ native Spanish and also English, but I’m not sure if something somehow got lost in translation as the stories don’t really seem to make much sense to me; almost stilted. I think I prefer to let the images tell their own story….

Another reason why I love Victoria Frances, is that she also has many images depicting masquerade masks. There’s just something about the idea of wearing a gorgeous ball gown, ornate mask and dancing through the streets of Venice. In Victoria Frances’ images, the scene is usually of a lone woman on the fringe of the festivities or perhaps the end and there’s a pervading feeling of sadness in those images that is very evocative.

Victoria Frances also has a wonderful way of depicting romantic trysts. There’s always a sense of forbidden love and tortured lust that I’m such a sucker for.

As if being a talented artist isn’t enough, Victoria Frances is also envy-inducing due to being exceptionally pretty and has posed in several photo sessions. I love looking at pretty ladies wearing the sort of clothes that make me a bit giddy, partly because it’s something I would love to do myself.

Joseph Vargo’s style on the other hand, is quite stark, but no less dark. He has a very restricted colour palette but this tends to lend an ominous feeling to his images which I think works really well.

There’s no getting away from the Gothic with Joseph Vargo! I love his images of vampires, spirits and gargoyles. There’s a strong sense of the malevolent in his images. I think he leans more towards the horror of Gothic, rather than the romance.

There’s one image in particular that has long been a favourite of mine, of a woman completely submitting to the darkness. You can see the lust and longing she has for the dark force that has enchanted her.

Joseph Vargo doesn’t just create dark images, he also along with other authors, writes his own stories based on his illustrations. I actually have a copy of his book Tales from the Dark Tower. As if painting pictures and writing stories wasn’t enough to pour his creative energy into, he also produces haunting music in the guise of Nox Arcana.