Rachel Unthank and the Winterset – The Maze, Nottingham, Sunday November 25
Anyone who still dismisses folk music as a redundant art-form – cosy, twee, stuck in the past – might have their pre-conceptions challenged by Northumbrian singer Rachel Unthank, her younger sister Becky, pianist Belinda O’Hooley and fiddle player Niopha Keegan. Although the Winterset’s roots are in traditional folk, they are not afraid to take influences from more contemporary sources, including sparse, spine-tingling covers of Robert Wyatt’s Sea Song and Antony and the Johnsons’ For Today I Am A Boy.
Combining darkness and joy to sublime effect, the delicacy and grace of the music was offset by warm, self-deprecating comic banter between the performers, and a musical variety which encompassed ukuleles, clog dancing, and impromptu renditions of Christmas classics.
Material from debut album Cruel Sister kept the traditionalists happy, while its more dramatic, boundary-pushing follow-up The Bairns pointed the way forward – both for the Winterset, and indeed for English folk music in general.