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Here's the Tender Coming: The Unthanks - A beautiful pair of voices, but spoiled slightly by over production
on 16 March 2012
The British folk scene is incredibly strong at the moment. We have the populist freneticism of Mumford and Sons, the eclectic and adsorbing Bellowhead and luminaries such as Seth Lakeman and Spiers and Boden making a strong impression with their traditional stylings. Much as I love these artists work, I would argue that some of the most sublime records coming out at the moment hail from the North of England and Scotland, from the likes of Roddy Woomble and John McCusker. This album form Northumbrian band the Unthanks is almost, but not quite up there on the same level. It has potential, but I feel it hasn't been achieved.
The core of the album is the absolutely sublime vocal talents of the Unthanks sisters. Make no mistake, their voices and harmonies are beautiful, soaring or achingly tender where necessary. They use these magnificent instruments to give us a set of folk tunes, some traditional, some original. The originals are perhaps the most interesting, giving us folky ballads that speak of modern day stories, and show that new and interesting material is still being written in the form, and that it can still be relevant to today's audience.
The let down for the album is the backing and the production. There is just too much going on in the backing. The music only distracts from the voices, at worst it overpowers them. And the production is just too polished. There is none of the raw, impassioned edge that allows the music to rip into your heart and soul.
In short, there is a fine underlying centre to the album, but it is smothered in overproduction that prevents any real connection with the songs. So much potential, but not fully realised. 3 stars only.