FOLK’S most redeeming factor is its ability to evolve and for the artists creating it to be attuned to collaboration.
For Northumbria quintet The Unthanks – fronted by sisters Becky and Rachel Unthank – their latest collaboration, to be showcased at The Anvil on April 28, was one they approached with trepidation, as they were re-imagining the work of the mother of one of their favourite artists – Nick Drake.
Decades after Molly Drake originally wrote a collection of wistful songs about her son, The Unthanks have now brought them into the 21st century with the family’s blessing.
“We have always loved Nick Drake’s music and on one of our albums we actually sang one of Nick’s songs,” Becky told The Gazette.
“I think Gabrielle (Nick’s sister) and Callie, the head of the Drake Foundation, had got wind of it and had come to see us play a few years ago.
“We met them after, got on really well and just kept in touch really.
“After a while, Callie sent us the album of Molly’s songs when the Drake Foundation released them for the first time and it was like discovering a hidden treasure.
“They have been hidden all this time, and it is such a treat to hear. They are so beautiful yet so simple. And I think it kind of popped into our heads straight away that we want to do this.”
Becky admits that it was a bit of a daunting task stepping into the shadow of a woman who had wrote the incredible fragile and emotional songs for her son, but insists the music was too good not to share with the world.
She added: “It was a little intimidating to sing another woman’s songs and she has an amazing range, which neither Rachel nor myself has.
“Even if we came across these songs and they had no connection to this amazing artist in Nick Drake, they would still stand out on their own. So the added interest that we have listened to the songs of the mother of such a tender and mysterious artist, which Nick was, it is very revealing.”
For the pairing of Becky and Rachel, even though the new record is dear to them, they still hold their own folk origins at the heart of everything that they do.
One of these things being that the lyrics they are singing being the main instrument which stands out when they step foot on stage.
“It is really important to us that the song is the king of the situation. We may have a tenpiece band on stage with us, but it is really important that the words of the song come across to an audience and the emotion of it,”
Becky said. “We have a clarinet player with us for the first time on this tour, which adds another element to our performances.
“The clarinet has such a lovely tone that it almost acts as another voice on stage.”
The Unthanks will be performing at the Anvil on April 28. For more information and tickets visit anvilarts.org.uk.
Singer/songwriter Drake died in 1974 aged 26 winning acclaim after his passing.