THE Unthanks have announced a 21-date tour to coincide with the spring release of their first studio album in four years.
Their most comprehensive UK tour in their decade-long history, the folk luminaries have included a homecoming gig at Newcastle City Hall on March 14, which will doubtless please their legions of North East fans, who may have been wondering when they’d be getting a new fix.
The past two years have seen the band, headed up by its namesake sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, holed up in Northumberland, quietly working away on an ambitious follow-up to their acclaimed 2011 album, Last.
Not that they haven’t been doing other stuff as well, of course.
In 2012, the band, who were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2007 for The Bairns, released three Diversions albums in the space of 12 months – the first a re-imagining of the work of both Robert Wyatt & Antony Hegarty; the second a popular orchestral scale work with national champions Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band; and the third a moving soundtrack to a film about the shipbuilding industry: Songs of the Shipyards which won them a Journal Culture Award.
Other notable recent collaborations make up an enviable roster of artists including Orbital, Sting, Adrian Utley (Portishead), Martin Green (Lau), Martin Hayes, The Voice Squad, Charles Hazlewood, The Moulettes and German composer Werner Cee.
Meanwhile their list of celebrity fans is ever-growing too.
Actor Martin Freeman is the latest convert, who said of the band: “All I can say about The Unthanks is that they make my heart beat faster, or smile a lot, or cry. They mean it. And not in some dreary ‘authentic’ way that feels like a penance for the listener, but just natural. They sing and play what the hell they like, and if you’ve heard nicer harmonies this year, I may call you a liar. I’m glad to be around at the same time as them.”
He joins the likes of Elvis Costello, Colin Firth, Robert Wyatt, Ben Folds, Ryan Adams, Rosanne Cash, members of Portishead and Radiohead, Dawn French, Paul Morley, Ewan McGregor, Stephan Mangan, Al Murray, Ade Edmondson and Nick Hornby - who are all proud to call themselves fans.
Tickets for The Unthanks gig at Newcastle City Hall on March 14 are available from the box office on 0191 277 8030 or online at www.newcastlecityhall.org . For updates on the new album and all other news, visit the band’s newly-polished website at www.the-unthanks.com