a thread for the unthanks (formerly 'rachel unthank and the winterset')

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

i get fonder and fonder of this lot, basically. i saw them in bristol last year; there was clog-dancing. for those familiar it's two northumbrian singers, r. and b. unthank, doing (mostly) trad material; the arrangements have been moving away from standard finger-in-ear* stuff and towards looping piano/string lines. i think the new record is all-trad or trad-revival. their last one, 'the bairns', also included them doing r. wyatt's sea song, which here is a youtube version of that i haven't watched:


new record 'here's the tender coming' just came out: listen to it! it kind of takes the modern-classical-ish elements implicit in the last record and pushes them forward; they've got rid of the bad-songwriting piano player and there's the same players on everything and it's just basically fantastic.

*not that there's anything wrong with that

thomp, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:03 (nine years ago) link

i heard about these guys just the other day - a mate of mine wants to put them onstage locally. worth my time?

anything to do with alasdair gray? suppose not.

dog latin, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:04 (nine years ago) link

if you have any tolerance for folk song at all, go see them, definitely

(a friend of mine didn't and had to leave. re: clog-dancing: "i just couldn't handle that.")

i was going to ask why they'd have anything to do with alasdair gray but there's an 'unthank' in lanark, isn't there? — i think it's their real name. presuuuuuuuumably it's from the middle english 'unthink', meaning "to put out of mind".

thomp, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:08 (nine years ago) link

unthank is where most of lanark is set, yeah. it's a good name for the band all the same. sounds interesting, will check em out.

dog latin, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:11 (nine years ago) link

saw them play at the union chapel last year and they were great. think they joked about their surname then - it means "squatters" or something. hang on:

It originates from three villages called Unthank, two in Cumbria, the other in the neighbouring county of Northumberland, on the Scottish border. According to the Oxford Directory of English Place Names, the place and hence the surname derives from a pre 7th century Olde English word "unpance" which means literally "without leave," and described an area of land which was occupied unlawfully.

joe, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:25 (nine years ago) link

they were on radcliffe last week whilst he was walking hadrian's wall and said then that their predecessors had been reivers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_Reivers

> i heard about these guys just the other day

they were mercury prize nominated for their previous lp just last year...

koogs, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:32 (nine years ago) link

saw them in chicago last year and they were GREAT

figgy pudding (La Lechera), Tuesday, 15 September 2009 13:23 (nine years ago) link

Saw them in 2007. Yes, superb. Seeing them again next month.

mike t-diva, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 13:57 (nine years ago) link

Ha Amanda I was just about to call your attention to this thread -- didn't even know if you'd heard them or not.

(I just listened to a couple tracks on MySpace. Good stuff.)

jaymc, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 13:59 (nine years ago) link

i think we actually talked about them on another thread but i can't remember which. i remember raving about the show, though. it was that good.

figgy pudding (La Lechera), Wednesday, 16 September 2009 00:44 (nine years ago) link

ah yes, here it was
i raved embarrassingly

i went to go see them last night in chicago
it was breathtaking -- singing and arrangements were the same bold combination of trad and modern as the collins sisters.
i was on the fence about going because i had to go by myself, but i am so truly happy i went. i know rachel gets top billing, but
becky's voice is quite beautiful and distinctive its own right, and in a completely different (more velvety) way than rachel's.
together, though, wow.

that is what i have to say: wow. WOW.

― La Lechera, Sunday, September 21, 2008 8:21 AM (11 months ago) Bookmark

a year later, still love them and am excited for new record

figgy pudding (La Lechera), Wednesday, 16 September 2009 00:49 (nine years ago) link

The first six tracks on the new record are up on Myspace. The harmonies in "Because He Was a Bonny Lad" are particularly gorgeous.

Ari (whenuweremine), Wednesday, 16 September 2009 01:02 (nine years ago) link

i really like the idea of this group. robert wyatt covers? child ballads? check. neat instrumentation? check. but something about it still struck me as a bit too willful, almost mannered.

amateurist, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 06:53 (nine years ago) link

There must be loads of places called 'Unthank' because I've seen it a lot while driving around northern parts, on local signs, the fronts of buses, etc. It's such a horrible word that it stays with you. Maybe it's a northern equivalent of names like Strand or Mile End that crop up all over. I wish I knew what it meant.

Ismael Klata, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 08:39 (nine years ago) link


Rachel Unthank (voice, cello and feet)
Becky Unthank (voice and feet)
Niopha Keegan (fiddle and voice)
Adrian McNally (piano and voice)
Chris Price (guitar, bass, ukelele, dulcitone)

Mark G, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 08:59 (nine years ago) link

eight months pass...

Saw them last night at the Union Chapel, first time I had seen the 10 piece band, pretty damn great, at times the sound was verging on bands like Rachels (npi)

The only downside was David Thomas Broughton as support, really mismatched, and he came across as a collosal arse.

disastrous sixth series (MaresNest), Wednesday, 2 June 2010 09:45 (nine years ago) link

seven months pass...

New one - Last, as in "lasting," not "last record" - out in March. Apparently there's a cover of Tom Waits' "No One Knows I'm Gone" and a King Crimson tune.

Simon H., Sunday, 2 January 2011 23:29 (eight years ago) link

three years pass...

...And another one, out in February. Seems to be all originals. "Trip-hop" content promised, eek. Here's the single, which is of course very nice; the album version is 10+mins according to iTunes.


Simon H., Saturday, 15 November 2014 22:03 (four years ago) link

two years pass...

so I'd never actually read the real testimony of Patience Kershaw before and it is just as heartrending as the song suggests (as is the rest of the 1842 testimony collected here):


anyway I wish this lot would do a north american tour sometime

a serious and fascinating fartist (Simon H.), Wednesday, 28 June 2017 13:40 (two years ago) link

four months pass...

Not a huge amount to say other than I saw them at the Green Man back in the mid 00s and was transfixed but somehow stopped paying attention. Anyway, I've just discovered the Diversions 2 set and King of Rome has reduced me to a blubbering wreck.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Wednesday, 8 November 2017 20:16 (one year ago) link

Here's The Tender Coming (the song) completely destroys me.

MaresNest, Wednesday, 8 November 2017 20:37 (one year ago) link

most emotionally shattering Unthanks songs:

Fareweel Regality
Testimony of Patience Kershaw
Here's the Tender Coming
Gallowgate Lad
Died for Love

Simon H., Wednesday, 8 November 2017 20:41 (one year ago) link

Just working through some of these. Jesus.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Wednesday, 8 November 2017 21:37 (one year ago) link

I think part of the reason I lost them was buying the album for an old mate who grew up in the north east and had set up various folk clubs in Newcastle. He had most of the tracks on The Bairns in his DNA and was kinda scathing about their interpretations (saying they were deliberately melodramatic and overtly sorrowful versions of songs he knew as raucous and wild). I'm far too suggestible and it put me off.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Wednesday, 8 November 2017 21:41 (one year ago) link


Le Bateau Ivre, Wednesday, 8 November 2017 22:04 (one year ago) link

the melodrama is the whole point!

Simon H., Wednesday, 8 November 2017 23:49 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

was wondering what this crew was up to, turns out they have a triple-EP set out on 02/22


bhad bundy (Simon H.), Friday, 8 February 2019 21:18 (six months ago) link

three weeks pass...

Lines pt:3 Emily Brönte is up on Spotify, it's as beautiful as you'd hoped it would be.

Uptown VONC (Le Bateau Ivre), Wednesday, 6 March 2019 14:38 (five months ago) link

the other two parts are up as well, in the EPs section

bhad bundy (Simon H.), Wednesday, 6 March 2019 14:47 (five months ago) link

Ah I couldn't find them at first, ta! What's your first impression? I like how sparse it is (pt3)

Uptown VONC (Le Bateau Ivre), Wednesday, 6 March 2019 14:50 (five months ago) link

I've only given it all a cursory listen - there's a lot going on here

bhad bundy (Simon H.), Wednesday, 6 March 2019 14:55 (five months ago) link

idk it's all nice and worthwhile but it feels like an extension of their "Diversions" series as opposed to a proper album of any kind. it feels more like a pretty thesis project than a project to get absorbed by

bhad bundy (Simon H.), Thursday, 7 March 2019 03:50 (five months ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.