New Internationalist

The Bairns

May 2008
An extraordinary feat from Rachel Unthank and the Winterset.

Out of Britain’s blustery Northumbria comes Rachel Unthank and her Winterset trio. The Bairns is Unthank’s second album and it is so bold that it almost undoes the folk tradition on which it’s based to make something utterly different.

This is an extraordinary, and not easily explainable, feat. Yes, Unthank draws on material that reflects a deep affinity with Northumbrian song and dialect, but she and her collaborators shy away from any cod notions of authenticity to reach a new space, helped by a series of little ‘lulls’ – including a portion of Will Oldham’s ‘A Minor Place’ – that link songs. The instrumentation is spare – just Unthank’s voice and cello, plus pianist Belinda O’Hooley, violinist Niopha Keegan and co-vocals from her sister Becky – but the colours illuminating the 15 songs (especially ‘I Wish’, a lament of a maid undone) are startling.

The careful pace of The Bairns is reminiscent of a more experimental tradition that takes in John Cale and the shimmerings of Jon Hassell. The beautiful ‘My Donald’, a mostly acapella song from the days of the whaling fleets, conjures up recollections of Nico, circa Marble Index era, while it’s no surprise to find a deft cover of Robert Wyatt’s ‘Sea Song’. Sound artist Graeme Miller’s working of ‘Newcastle Lullaby’, in an echoing round, is also very special.

LG

This column was published in the May 2008 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on The Bairns

Leave your comment







 

  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

The Bairns Fact File
Product information by Rachel Unthank and the Winterset
Star rating4
Product link http://www.rachelunthank.com
Product number EMI 5099950438020 CD

Get our free fortnightly eNews

Multimedia

Videos from visionOntv's globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Music

All Music

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 411

New Internationalist Magazine issue 411
Issue 411

More articles from this issue

  • Plan B 3.0 - Mobilizing to Save Civilization

    May 1, 2008

    'We are in a race between tipping points in the earth’s natural systems and those in the world’s political systems. Which will tip first?'

  • Caucus of terrorists

    May 1, 2008

    Dinyar Godrej concludes his report: meeting enemies of the State – and looking to the future.

  • Corporate hogwash

    May 1, 2008

    Investors in Burma have blood on their hands, according to Maung Maung.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.

Subscribe