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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Robert Rachel Unthank & The Winterset (245* d) RE: Rachel Unthank & The Winterset 30 Jan 08

I've never been too keen on Folk (or what I've heard of it over the last forty years), although I wouldn't criticise anyone who gets pleasure from the genre. Perhaps I'm proving the point of those expressing negative opinions of the Unthanks, but I was actually quite surprised when I became aware that they were deemed to be Folk.

My introduction to their music was a combination of seeing their ad in Songlines and, some months later, deciding to see if they had any audio samples on Myspace. They did, and I was hooked from the first few bars of Felton Lonnen. To draw a somewhat obscure comparison, the eerie atmospherics of the song reminded me of an old Bobbie Gentry LP I had as a kid (& I don't like Country music, either).

Rather than buying "The Bairns" (the Phill Jupitus recommendation put me off), we went to see them at The Round in Ouseburn. A pretty small venue, very cosy, not that which you would associate with apparently overhyped EMI quislings. I had a daft grin on my face for the duration. Highly entertaining, great banter, a good long show and it isn't often that you end up waiting in the interval toilet queue with half the band you've paid to see. Not that I see that as a particular advantage, of course. I couldn't fault the quality of the musicianship or singing and the acoustics in the venue were spot on.

As a result of that show, I bought both their albums. Enjoyed both but with a preference for the newer one. Not being a Folk expert, there may be scores of superior performers out there, but if I can't listen to Fareweel Regality without getting a lump in my throat, they must be doing something right. My only criticism would be the length of one or two of the songs.

I'm sure that, as has been suggested, O'Hooley's contribution has done a lot for them but only time will tell if her absence will disadvantage them. I'm surprised by the criticisms of their voices. Rachel's is full of character and energy, while Becky's breathy soulfulness provides a great contrast and complement. In particular, the younger sister's voice is a revelation in the live setting. Oh, and where's the evidence for their supposed problems with keeping in tune?

More recently, I got an e-mail inviting me to their pre-tour gig in a tiny cinema in Newcastle. By the time I rang for tickets, I figured they'd have sold all 50 of them but I tried anyway. Somewhat surprised to find myself talking to Rachel, who then put me through to Adrian the manager. Very corporate EMI, I don't think.

For me, it's been a breath of fresh air to be able to enjoy something from the Folk genre that is outside of the holy trinity of Carthy, Waterson and, erm, Carthy - and neither a finger in the ear nor a whiny Norfolk accent.

Mind, I still prefer The Fall.

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