Gary Flockhart: Unthanks for memories of album

The Unthanks. Pic: Comp

The Unthanks. Pic: Comp

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AFTER a four-year hiatus The Unthanks returned last month with a brand new album entitled Mount The Air - and even by their standards the reviews were gushing.

Not that Rachel Unthank would know much about that, for the singer, who fronts the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners with her sister Becky, rarely ever reads reviews.

“Well, I try not to because if I read the good and believe them, then I have to read the bad and believe them too,” she says, speaking ahead of the group’s visit to the Queen’s Hall tonight.

“Obviously if there is a great review around then it’s hard not to have a look,” adds the Geordie lass. “It’s lovely to be well-received because you feel like you’ve been successful in communicating your ideas and that people have understood what you’re trying to do.”

The folk five-piece’s last three albums have been part of a specially commissioned ‘Diversions’ series where they’ve reinterpreted songs by the likes of Antony Hegarty and Robert Wyatt, but the new album is all their own work.

In the past, Adrian McNally [Rachel’s husband] would write the songs, but this time siblings Rachel and Becky have tried their hand at it, which is a new thing for them.

As Rachel explains, they never really felt the need to write songs in the past because there were so many others they wanted to sing.

“Because we grew up in the folk tradition, singing at festivals and exploring those old songs, we were always surrounded by songs we’d never heard or that other people hadn’t heard, and there were always stories we wanted to tell,” she says.

Whether they’re putting their own stamp on other people’s work or singing their own songs, The Unthanks are astounding live.

And if you want to find out why Radiohead, Elvis Costello and Ben Folds love them, then head for the Queen’s Hall tonight.