How I Got Into….The Unthanks (Blaugust Day 14)

Yesterday I trailed a new weekly feature talking about how I first came across some band or author or film-maker that I then went on to love. This is the first – please leave feedback, or share your own stories of the accidental or serendipitous circumstances that led to a long-term love.

This is also the story that really sums up what I had in mind when I came up with the idea.

Mount the airThe Unthanks are one of my favourite bands, and this post is the story of how I came across them. This isn’t somewhere to write a biography – those are readily available thanks to the wonders of the internet – but in short The Unthanks are an English folk group from the North-East: sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, with Rachel’s husband Adrian McNally and violinist Niopha Keegan as the other central players. I’ll post a few links below if you want to find out more, but if you’ve been reading my posts this week you may have followed the chain in yesterday’s to Mount The Air.

But this post is about where it started for me, and how accidental it was.

In 2007 my son decided to do an evening class in Film Studies. As he was too young to drive, and the class was in a small town that was hard to get to by bus, it became my job on Wednesday evening to drive him over there. Some weeks after I dropped him off I’d go to the supermarket, other weeks I’d wait in the car outside the school with a book or my laptop. And the car radio.

I’m not much of a one for listening to music radio. In the car I listen to podcasts. At home it’s usually Spotify. Other times it’s CDs. It’s rarely the radio. But this one evening I had BBC Radio 2 on while I was waiting, listening to Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie’s show. They play a wide range of music, and the radio was just background (I think I was playing Football Manager on the laptop).

Then one track came on that just grabbed my ears and demand that I listen.

It was female voices, singing in tight harmony, unaccompanied, and a thing of such beauty that I made sure to listen for the artist name and the song title. It was Tar Barrel in Dale by a group I’d never heard of called The Unthanks.

50_mIt was straight to Spotify when I got home, and from that one accidental hearing I found the group I’ve listened to more than any other in the years since; it feels like it’s never the wrong time or the wrong mood to listen to them.

And this all came from that fortunate series of events – listening to that radio show (which I so rarely did) at that time on that evening, the one evening of the week that my son had his class.

If none of those things had been in place, would I ever have heard of them? Maybe: they’ve turned up on various TV programmes over the years. But I’ve tended to see them there because I’ve been looking – I already knew them, and I watch the programme because of them. I don’t know if I’d have tripped over them by accident any other way. And from there came an enduring love that I find it difficult to express.

And that’s what this series of posts is about – the accidental chain of circumstance that gives you something special.

Links to more about The Unthanks – maybe you’ll like them too:

The Unthanks website

The King of Rome  with the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band (following on from yesterday’s post on British Brass) – an uplifting story of hope and triumph and a truly gorgeous sound

The Testimony of Patience Kershaw   a tribute to the women of the industrial revolution

Starless   version of the King Crimson song, probably the Unthanks track I listen to most

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6 Responses to How I Got Into….The Unthanks (Blaugust Day 14)

  1. calensariel says:

    Tar Barrel in Dale is beautiful. And what an interesting site. I started following Song of the Isles. Thanks ever so much for posting all this. I probably have more Celtic cds than any other kind. Except maybe soundtracks. I think your first installment in this series is smashing. I can’t wait to read what you post next time. Great job! There’s such synergy in these kinds of experience, isn’t there…


  2. katerimorton says:

    Well, you know how I got into The Unthanks! Always grateful for that one, I listen to them a lot.


  3. Pingback: How I Got Into….Rhiannon Giddens | Intermittent Daily Posts

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