The Unthanks – Last

The Unthanks - Last

The Unthanks - Last

Its not often that an album written and performed so simply garners note.  Predominantly acoustic music is rarely considered original or creative within any avant garde circle.  UK sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank along with Niopha Keegan and Adrian McNally have achieved such a feat.

Their pastoral sound is full of traditional English folk, chamber elements and a medieval quality that usually irks me to death due to the cliche nature of it all; however,  this troupe understands the delicate nature of the medium they’re working in and renders it so gracefully that I honestly have no negative feelings for it.

One wonders how much research went into the authentic portrayal of love songs that feel ripe with war, sickness, famine and the plague.  There is an innocence here that is uncommon in the music of our time.  They present hopeful waltzes and somber pop ballads accompanied by necessary elements of melancholy and remorse.  Crisp and  gorgeous vocal harmonies are driven by the sound of a piano that seems to have traveled with the sisters for lifetimes and the classically arranged violin and cello are perfectly matched.  There is perfectly utilized ukulele and dulcitone that never seems out of place and traditional yet understated piano, guitar and bass with just an smattering of the drums.

This is some of the most mature and eloquent music I’ve heard in quite a while.  These are musicians and writers with tact, grace and wisdom beyond their years.  Here, we have an example of artists paying tribute to lost sounds, without emulation and with a genuinely new take on some age old artifact.

If in doubt of my complete approval, take comfort in this: December 8-9, 2010,  The Unthanks performed two concerts at London’s Union Chapel consisting entirely of material written by Robert Wyatt and by Antony Hegerty of  Antony and the Johnsons.  If those two monumental performers approved, how could you disagree?