The Unthanks are sisters Rachel and Becky from Northumberland. Originally the band was known as Rachel Unthank And The Winterset and consisted of Rachel, Becky, Belinda O’Hooley on piano and Jackie Oates on viola. They released their debut album in 2005 and it won Mojo magazine’s award as Folk Album Of The Year.
A second album followed (The Bairns, 2007) but by the third album (Here’s The Tender Coming, 2009) the band had become known as The Unthanks and had a new line up – Niopha Keegan on violin, accordion and mandolin, Adrian McNally on piano, drums, marimba and various percussion and Chris Price on guitar and bass and various other instruments. This album was followed by The Last in 2011 and it’s on this album that Starless appears.
It’s not everyday that you find a band that covers a King Crimson song and makes it their own. Starless comes from Red released by King Crimson in 1974, the last of an era before they also reinvented themselves and reappeared some years later with a new line up and a new album (Discipline, 1981).
Since The Last, the band has continued with a series of fascinating Folk experiments – a live album of songs by Robert Wyatt and Antony Hegarty in 2011, an album with The Brighouse And Rastrick Brass Band in 2012 and also in the same year, Songs From The Shipyards originally songs to accompany a documentary about shipbuilding in the North-East.
The Unthanks latest album, Mount The Air was released in February 2015.