Saturday, October 17, 2009

Album Review : Here's The Tender Coming - The Unthanks****



Both a change of personnel and name of the band have preceded this third album from Rachel and Becky Unthank. The two previous albums have established the sisters as firm favourites in the British folk scene, so this third album should cement their reputation.

I found HTTC to be a slow burner when compared to The Bairns and especially Cruel Sister, I was more immediately grabbed by both of those albums than I was by the release. Persevering though, The Unthanks open up their layers of music and lyrical weavings. The Unthanks may now have expanded their numbers by one, but their music reamins as sparse and textured as before, they have not suddenly become Bellowhead.

HTTC has 13 tracks, also in the style of previous albums these range from very short (and amusing) ditties like Where've Yer Been Dick, to the much longer and much darker epics Annachie Gordon and Nobody Knew She Was There. Many of the traditional songs that The Unthanks have selected for this album are dark and cautionary tales, but this is where Becky excels, her quiet breathy vocals almost whispering the narratives of failed love, mourning and despair.

The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw, developed from the real life interview with a working pit girl, tells a harrowing tale of a young woman forced into the harsh underground world of mining to support herself, it is both lyrically and musically one of the strongest songs on the album. Nobody Knew She Was There chronicles the life of a wife and mother taken utterly for granted by those around her, and Flowers Of The Town charts the loss of young manhood from a small village during the Great War.

You won't finish listening to Here's The Tender Coming and end up with a big happy smile on your face, the road The Unthanks tread is a dark and foreboding path, but it is possessed of such incredibly beautiful melancholy that you will want to return to it time and time again to marvel at how the band can produce such gorgeous music whilst being so sparse and restrained in their playing. Beautiful, haunting, in places exquisitely forlorn, but with enough touches of life and humour to make it not an entirely downbeat experience.

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