Friday, April 23, 2010
The Unthanks -- Here's the Tender Coming
Northumbrian sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank evoke the trad folkie vision of cloned Sandy Denny's. Trust me, that's almost more than some of us can bear. Even so, Lord, let your servant depart in peace. But if their harmonies are otherworldly and sublime, and they are, their songs are firmly rooted in the palpable earthiness of desperate lives. On Here's the Tender Coming there are thirteen ancient and contemporary tales of drowning sailors, child mine workers, unfaithful husbands, and, yes, a bride who commits suicide on her wedding day. Good times. Sister Rachel received top billing on the two previous efforts, but Becky has been elevated to equal status here, and it shows. Rachel's voice is raw, soulful, and ragged at times, but Becky contributes a sweetness and folkie purity to the proceedings that perfectly complements her sister. Their harmonies are swoon-worthy. The other Unthanks contribute surprisingly non-Trad accompaniment. The focus is unsurprisingly on the vocals, but the string and horn arrangements sometimes suggest a baroque Sufjan Stevens, sometimes a small jazz ensemble. This is a beautiful album.