By The Unthanks
Whenever I listen to Rachael Unthank and The Winterset, or The Unthanks as they are now called, I just have to pinch myself to wake up from the daydream-inspiring beauty of the magical, medieval melodies that effortlessly drift from this superb group. The Unthanks take traditional folk songs, like old Scottish ballads and other Celtic and English rhymes, tales and tunes and present them with such simple elegance that the listener cannot help but be bewitched and moved.
What The Unthanks manage to do so well, is sing of social dramas that were relevant to peoples' lives hundreds of years ago, and somehow, with striking intimacy, manage to make the words relative to you, right now. Essentially, they universalise human feeling. It doesn't so much matter that Rachel Unthank sings the sad tale of 'Annachie Gordon' and his long lost love that ended up in a cold and loveless marriage to the cruel Lord Sultan; what matters is the fact that The Unthanks, by delving into rich and ancient folk history, manage to find a way of talking about love and loss without falling into the depths of cliche that many new artists attempting to address this subject are often guilty of.
The Unthanks hold you by the hand right from the first track and lead you gently into their mystical world. You are rocked and nursed by the excellent a cappella 'Because He Was A Bonny Lad,' which sets the tone of the magic to come. Beautifully harmonised voices dominate with subtle instrumental accompaniment, which always manages to remain purely in support of the vocal tales being told and never overpowers the hauntingly soft voices of the Unthank sisters. During instrumental sections, like the fantastic violin and piano sections in 'Lucky Gilchrist,' the music is so richly expressive, that it continues to communicate the folk-tales in lieu of the voices. 'Annachie Gordon' stands out with its particularly heart wrenching narrative, with the touching refrain "I'll die If I don't get my love Annachie," really seeming to shiver through your bone marrow with sheer, nerve-hitting, raw feeling.
'Here's The Tender Coming' is an album that sensuously rocks along with consistently intimate tales. The title track of the album spookily mixes the high sweetness of the North Eastern feminine voices with low, trudging, eerie double bass, and what starts off an a mournful elegiac lament gloriously opens up into an outright uplifting celebration which will have you humming 'Here's The Tender Coming' for days and weeks afterwards. This is really where The Unthanks strike home. Gentle and yet heartbeat-skipping tunes that warm you on the inside whilst leaving a distinct shiver down your spine.