Thursday, 2 June 2011

Album review: THE UNTHANKS - Last

Highlights: Gan To The KyeThe Gallowgate Lad, Give Away Your Heart, Starless

Of all the folk revivalists of today, The Unthanks (sisters Rachel and Becky, basically) offer the biggest deal in terms of authenticity. With their poignant, sophisticated arrangements and heartfelt vocals, they make it sound truly genuine. 

Having loved their previous album, the acclaimed Here’s The Tender Coming (2009), I of course had no desire to be let down by Last. I was not; the deal is the same: moving, ancient-sounding English ballads with haunting tunes, delicate piano lines (I particularly love “Give Away Your Heart”), sorrowful cellos and violins, occasional acoustic guitars. My favourite is probably the slow waltz of “The Gallowgate Lad”, but once you are soaked in their mood, The Unthanks don’t really fail. I even feel mesmerised by the sparse, mysterious “Close The Coalhouse Door” (well, this being Tyneside, of course…).   

Besides the obligatory traditional songs and rather predictable covers, they also offer a couple of big surprises. For instance, they cover Tom Waits’ “No One Knows I’m Gone” (from the equally cheerless Alice) and even (gasp) King Crimson’s “Starless”. But unless you look in the sleeve notes or know those songs (which you should), you won’t believe they are in fact covers. The Unthanks make them their own, age-old but timeless. 

For me, this is traditional English folk music as it should be done. If you are in a melancholy, brooding mood, that is. 


No comments:

Post a Comment