With the subtle arrival of autumn, The Unthanks delivered a mesmerising appearance at the Edinburgh International Festival not to be forgotten in a hurry.
The nine-piece based folk collective led by Northumbrian sisters, Rachel and Becky Unthanks performed What Can a Song Do to You? from a collection of poems and songs by Nick Drake’s mother (Molly) which are every bit as captivating as her son’s best work.
A haunting rendition of Magpie from 2015’s excellent long-player Mount the Air is an arresting experience.
Performed sparsely, the potency of the vocals is one of the most memorable moments of my three weeks covering the festival. What a joy to be in the presence of live music again of this calibre as the sodium lights of Edinburgh shine from the darkness.
We are spirited away by The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw written by Frank Higgins which tells of a teenage girl working in the mines based on her words from 1862. A brutal life is shared through the most wondrous expression available.
From coal miners to shipbuilders we are treated to a spellbinding version of A Great Northern River from Songs From The Shipyards (2012). In the best way, it has all the intimacy of a family gathering where something sacred is passed on through the power of song with some clog dancing thrown in for good measure.
Even a few words are forgotten but it all adds to the unpretentious and unforced atmosphere, a rare thing in these times. The King of Rome tells the true story of a racing pigeon that won a long-distance race from Rome to England in 1913.
The Unthanks poignantly bring everyday lives and forgotten souls to the forefront through the beauty of song, melody and three-part harmonies.