Folk siblings The Unthanks launched their latest album at a special event in Northumberland on Sunday afternoon.
An audience of invited guests enjoyed a special and intimate playing of the new release from the award-winning Northumberland folk group - their first studio long player for four years.
Maximo Park’s Paul Smith and award winning children’s author David Almond, as well as a few lucky competition winners, were among those who had gathered for the occasion in the remote studio where the album was recorded near Corbridge.
“We wanted to celebrate the album as an art form - giving it time to be listened to from beginning to end, and mark and celebrate all the work we have put into it,” said Rachel Unthank, who leads the band with sister Becky.
“We thought it might be nice to invite people up to the studio where it was recorded to hear it with us.”
As well as being treated to the first full public unveiling of Mount The Air, which is released on Monday (Feb 9), guests also got to enjoy a banquet of a buffet prepared by the band.
“Of course we’re nervous about it,” laughed Rachel, (talking about the album, not the buffet). “I don’t think you can not be nervous about something which you’ve invested so much time and work in.”
In addition, Becky said this album offered another layer of anxiety for the band, because it’s the first one on which they have all had a writing credit.
She said: “In the past, somebody might say they didn’t like our singing, but they couldn’t get at us for the songs because we were mostly singing someone else’s words - we were just the messenger! This record is a lot more exposing in that way I suppose, but that makes it exciting too.”
Although Mount The Air is the first studio album in a while for the Mercury Music Prize nominated and BBC Folk Award winners, Rachel was quick to point out they have kept themselves busy with other things during that time - like the acclaimed Songs from the Shipyards project, their live and recorded collaboration with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band and working with Sting on the music for The Last Ship. Rachel has also become a mother-of-two sons with husband and the band’s pianist and producer, Adrian McNally.
She said: “When you’re working on a project-based album, you’re kind of working to an agenda or a framework. But when it’s a studio album for the band, it’s just about what you want to express and explore, so it feels like you have more freedom I suppose. It feels really good to be releasing an Unthanks album.”
And the assembled audience seemed to agree.
Jade Kirton-Darling, North East MEP for Labour, said: “The album is extremely beautiful. It is like the geography of the North East in musical form. The instruments represent the landscape and their voices are like the wind running through it.”
Fan and competition winner, Fiona Monteith-Preston added: “It is beautiful. The arrangements are stunning and complement Becky and Rachel’s voices. They sit really well together and showcase the fragility of Becky’s voice, which has an ethereal, air-like quality to it.”
For more information about the album, visit www.the-unthanks.com