The Tyneside Group have secured an enviable position among British folk acts: beloved of the faithful but recognisable to casual listeners.
The Unthanks have been described as “a take on tradition that flips so effortlessly between jazz, classical, ambient and post-rock, it makes any attempt to put a label on them a waste of time”. Their 15th and latest record, Sorrows Away, has been described as “a masterpiece of nuanced drama” (9/10 Uncut Albums of the Year), “a landmark album by an extraordinary band that will resonate for generations to come.” (Album Of The Month – Record Collector) and “a comfort blanket in daunting times” (Folk Folk’s Sake).
Using the traditional music of the North East of England as a starting point, the influence of Miles Davis, Steve Reich, Sufjan Stevens, Robert Wyatt, Antony & The Johnsons, King Crimson and Tom Waits makes The Unthanks a unique band, earning them a Mercury Music Prize nomination and international acclaim along the way.
The Unthanks tells stories that capture children. They make music cutting edge enough to be BBC 6Music regulars. They can equally be found on Radios 2, 3 and 4, reframing history and drawing together the worlds of folk, jazz, orchestral, electronic and rock music. The believability of their storytelling is admired by some of our best storytellers – Mackenzie Crook, Elvis Costello, Maxine Peake, Nick Hornby, Martin Freeman, Robert Wyatt, Charles Hazelwood, Ben Myers and David Mitchell, to name a few.
In the seven intervening years since Mount The Air, The Unthanks have scaled up to self-composed projects with The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Charles Hazelwood’s Army of Generals, and right down to their roots for the unaccompanied live record, Diversions Vol 5. They’ve created song cycles from Emily Bronte’s poetry on her original piano, created site specific theatre with Maxine Peake, paid an entire album and 8 track EP’s worth of devotion to Molly Drake, and created the light and the dark in soundtracks for 6 hours’ worth of Mackenzie Crook’s beautiful BBC adaptation of the Worzel Gummidge books.
At the nucleus of a constantly evolving unit is the traditional upbringing of Tyneside sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank and the arrangements and writing of composer, pianist, producer and Yorkshireman, Adrian McNally.
“Few of their contemporaries, within both folk music and the wider artistic spectrum, have such a keenly-honed ability to locate in a song the emotional essence that can, in just a single phrase or vocal elision, cut one to the quick.” The Independent
“It’s quite a rare thing now. They’ve really got everything you could want from music. And I’m very fussy.” Robert Wyatt
“There are few times when you discover a band and they stalk immediately to the heart of everything you love and hold dear.” – Maxine Peake
“The Unthanks are capable of such beauty that sometimes I can hardly bear to listen to them.” – Martin Freeman
“They run from the very root of folk music to the very tio of every branch.” – Elvis Costello
“It hits you in your soul rather than your head. I love them.” Adrian Edmondson
“The Unthanks have covered a lot of ground in the past decade and watching them evolve over this period has been truly inspiring.” Phillip Selway (Radiohead)
“The honest and heartfelt way in which they deliver their music is a true inspiration to me.” Martin Hayes