It seems serendipitous that as I sit here the day after Boxing Day catching up with reviews and finishing the last of the port and stilton that the first song to spring from this collection of rarities, outtakes and demos is a newly recorded version of The Pretenders 2000 Miles, a song which has become part of the contemporary musical canon. And like acts such as The Cadbury Sisters today and a whole plethora of folk acts before them, the selling point is the vocal delivery. Very little music gets in the way and that showcases just how brilliant it is and their idiosyncratic Northumbrian twang just adds to the enjoyment. As always in a world of auto-tune, over production, lip-synch and musicians as corporate puppet playthings, it is wonderful to be reminded of the pure, unadulterated beauty of the naked voice.
As a collection it shows just how uninhibited they are in their musical philosophy, mixing traditional folk modes with a more eclectic approach and thus appealing to the old school pipe and beard set and a whole tranche of new fans and followers.
Collectors and music lovers alike will revel in an alternative demo of Queen of Hearts, The Beatles Sexy Sadie, Peter Bellamy’s Oak, Ash and Thorn and a previously unreleased live version of Robert Wyatt’s Alifib/Alifie. As a tenth anniversary release it is a wonderful snapshot of a band that encompasses both a work in progress and part of the alt-folk establishment. If folk music is life, then 10 years is only a short passage but what The Unthanks have done in that time is outstanding, here’s to the next ten.