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CONCERT REVIEW: The Unthanks: The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake, South Holland Centre, Spalding





Rachel and Becky are The Unthanks. Photo supplied. (3349851)
Rachel and Becky are The Unthanks. Photo supplied. (3349851)

Just a week before their potentially career-defining BBC Proms performance at the Royal Albert Hall this Friday, Northumberland singing sisters The Unthanks performed live in Spalding on Thursday night.

The near-capacity South Holland Centre audience was evidence of Rachel and Becky Unthank's wide-reaching reputation for extending the boundaries of folk music, winning an all-star cast of fans in the process.

The Unthanks - The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake, is at South Holland Centre on Thursday, July 16, at 8pm. Photo supplied by Black Arts PR Ltd. (3115050)
The Unthanks - The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake, is at South Holland Centre on Thursday, July 16, at 8pm. Photo supplied by Black Arts PR Ltd. (3115050)

Actors Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit), Maxine Peake (Dinnerladies, The Village), Colin Firth (Mamma Mia, The King's Speech) and Dawn French (The Vicar of Dibley, The Comic Strip Presents) are just a few of the stellar names to have been won over by Rachel and Becky's unapologetically North Eastern vocals.

But the performance in Spalding on Thursday was more about the work of Warwickshire poet/songwriter Molly Drake, mum of celebrated singer Nick Drake and his sister, actress Gabrielle Drake.

The uniqueness of the concert became apparent when the stage lights revealed a set more in keeping with the living room of a country home, probably a reimagining of where Molly and her family once lived in the North Warwickshire village of Tanworth-in-Arden, near Solihull.

The Unthanks most recent album is called 'The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake'. Photo supplied by Black Arts PR Ltd. (3114961)
The Unthanks most recent album is called 'The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake'. Photo supplied by Black Arts PR Ltd. (3114961)

Six songs, including "How Wild the Wind Blows" and "Bird in the Blue", were performed before The Unthanks addressed their audience with the admission that "We've just thrown lots of heavy stuff at you".

With that, Rachel and Becky were free to present the Songs and Poems of Molly Drake which the sisters described as "heartfelt, deep, philosophical and emotional".

The songs were interspersed with Molly's poetry, read by daughter Gabrielle who became known to millions of TV viewers in the 1960s, 70s and 80s through shows, such as UFO (Lieutenant Gay Ellis), The Brothers (Jill Hammond/Williams) and Crossroads (Nicola Freeman).

Supported by pianist Adrian McNally, Rachel's husband, bass player Chris Price, Niopha Keegan on fiddle and clarinetist Faye MacCalman, the sisters took the audience into Molly Drake's world with intriguingly-titled songs like "Soft Shell Crabs, Little Weaver Bird, Dream Your Dreams" and "Never Pine for the Old Love".

Northumberland singing sisters Beth and Rachel Unthank, with Adrian McNally. Photo by Sarah Mason. (3349578)
Northumberland singing sisters Beth and Rachel Unthank, with Adrian McNally. Photo by Sarah Mason. (3349578)

There was even space at the concert to congratulate the heavily pregnant Becky and Niopha on their imminent new additions to the family, with Rachel saying: "Not only are we bringing you some amazing new music, but we're creating new life at the same time".

South Holland Centre staff said the visit by The Unthanks "really is a coup" for Spalding, with Rachel and Becky's haunting, yet harmonious voices, inviting comparisons with Bjork and Katie Melua.

The sisters replied: "For us, it's just an absolute dream to have all of these amazing songs by a fabulous lady to have a go at and it's been wonderful to be back in the world of Molly Drake."

Rachel Unthanks, with her husband Adrian McNally on piano. Photo by Gavin Bush. (3355300)
Rachel Unthanks, with her husband Adrian McNally on piano. Photo by Gavin Bush. (3355300)

Review by Winston Brown



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