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4.8 out of 5 stars13
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on 22 November 2007
This CD stands alone as an original creative piece with a touching mood all of its own. In context, as their first album (subsequently followed by "The Bairns"), it illustrates the beginnings of their unique sound which famously combines authenticity and individuality. If you're new to Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, start with "The Bairns", their second and most recent offering (simply breathtaking), and then treat yourself to "Cruel Sister" because you will want more, and this will help put their journey in context.
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on 14 June 2006
To listen to Cruel Sister is to remind yourself of what folk music really is: people with appreciation for tradition, their own ideas, the talent to combine them, the sensitivity to do it well and the enthusiasm to love doing it. Rachel and Becky Unthank have all this, and the spread of songs on here show that clearly. Whether it's familiar songs such as the title track (albeit in an interpretation unfamiliar to me), local North-Eastern songs like Rap Her To Bank or the superb acappella of The Fair Flower Of Northumberland, or more recent pieces like River Man, the skill is almost as apparent to the listener as the amount of fun they're clearly having.

Comparisons with June Tabor have been made by some reviewers, and while I'm not sure the Unthanks are quite in that league yet, at this rate they will. They do already share with Tabor that amazing ability to absorb and amplify the innate emotional quality of the songs they sing. Rachel especially has a most expressive voice. Accompanists Brenda O'Hooley and Jackie Oates, completing The Winterset, mark another similarity to June Tabor's music in their quiet, almost minimalist power, elegant simplicity and gravity, and are fantastically apt for the Unthank sisters' voices.

In annual visits to Hexham Gathering folk festival I've seen the Unthanks go from (undeservedly) little-regarded also-ran performers to headliners. I'm so glad they've managed to make this mark on the wider world at last. It's just a shame this CD doesn't have any video footage of their superb clogging as a hidden extra; perhaps for the next album?
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on 29 January 2009
The Unthank sisters have a quality which you seldom hear: husky, powerful, and with a precision of harmony and tone that makes you gasp. This is worth listening to very carefully, again and again
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on 19 February 2006
I love this music. The Unthanks bring the past and all it means to us, and what it makes us.
Having been to see them live at the Komedia theatre in Brighton, I was captivated by their live performance. They are also great entertainment in between songs. Belinda O’Hooley as well as being a fantistic pianist could perform stand up as another career. Please don't though.
They are going somewhere special, they are raw, hungry for success and encaptivating.
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on 21 October 2010
For me, it's about the voices, especially Becky's. I saw them for the first time recently - just the basic band, no extra strings etc. - and it was mesmerising. I find the arrangements on their most recent album a bit too intrusive instrumentally. I love 'The Bairns', especially their take on Robert Wyatt's 'Sea Song', however I've got a feeling that after a few more listens this album's going to end up being my favourite. Incidentally, after the gig a few of us were able to chat with Rachel and Becky; really nice people.
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on 5 April 2012
Cruel sister is without doubt what is best in English (and geordie) folk music. The Winterset and the Unthanks sisters have a rare and deep talent for turning out a song.The best is On a Monday Morning. The worst the irritating title track at over 8 minutes Cruel Sister. If you like how folk can repeat-then mabe you wont be sent screamin for the hills by this track. But overall a gem of a collection. For me, the Unthanks girls have kept me in touch with my roots and the best of my roots in tradition foul and fair. The Fair Flower of Northumberland-listen and weep over the Scottish man pig-"I have a wifey at home but you-yer slut wer just a shag like." Sigh. If you are a folkie or like a good song then go on, add it to your collection. You won't regret it.
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on 3 April 2010
Ordered this because I already had the more recent Albums, as expected grows on you the more you listen.
Unless you are a Folky it takes a little bit of listenng to tune in to this type of music as it is completly different than anything else you hear on a day to day basis, patience is rewarded and then it takes a while to adjust back to the norm,if you want to that is.
I'm sure they are fantastic live,
I cannot believe a British Folk Group CD had to come all the way from Oz, not available on usual British web sites
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on 12 March 2011
This is the first time I have downloaded music from Amazon and I can say it was excellent. The Album was also excellent and, if you are new to the Unthanks you really do have to stick with this, it is so worth taking the time. Excellent music and a fab advert for music from the North East..
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on 23 February 2010
Third Album from The Unthanks I have purchased. This is their first album and, in my opinion, the best.
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on 23 March 2016
good selection of songs and enjoyable listening.
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