Monday, 14 December 2009

The Unthanks - Here's The Tender Coming - Album of the Year #8

With line up changes and sister Becky Unthank committing full time to the Northumbrian group, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset changed their name to just The Unthanks for their third album Here’s The Tender Coming. The follow up to their Mercury Prize nominated album The Bairns, Here’s The Tender Coming represents a warmer calmer feel compared to The Bairns, but is equally as good, and often as sad. As with previous recordings The Unthanks continued to tap into their local areas traditions, taking Northumbrian folk songs and tales passed down from previous generations, adding their own mark on the tunes.

The voices of Becky and Rachel remain the centrepiece of the music. Becky with a deeper breathy intonation, Rachel with a more girlish lighter pitch, their tones matching perfectly. The musicianship on every song is also exemplary, a rewarding mix of strings, piano, and guitars. The tunes the group have chosen for this album are fascinating. For example, the lyrics to The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw are the real words spoken by a 17 year old girl to the Royal Commission on Children’s Employment in 1842; the girl worked in the mines. The songs may initially not have the immediacy of the standout tracks from The Bairns, but as their steady sadness envelopes you they draw you back time and time again. One suspects this will be an album that we still listen to in twenty years time.

The Unthanks may be a relatively young band, but because of their traditional roots have not found themselves grouped in with the currently fashionable sounds of the new folk scene with groups such as Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale or Laura Marling. Having now recorded three albums of the highest quality The Unthanks can be proud to have created music that exists outside of any type of fashion. Here’s The Tender Coming is a timeless and captivating recording and deserves to hold a place in any folk music fans collection, old or young.

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