Concise descriptions of The Unthanks range variously from “music that asks you to consider everything you know and un-think it”, to “a take on tradition that flips so effortlessly between jazz, classical, ambient and post-rock, it makes any attempt to put a label on them a waste of time”. If Art rock aspires to elevate rock from entertainment to an artistic statement, it the could be said that The Unthanks make Art Folk.
Their approach to storytelling that makes easy bedfellows of polar opposites such as staunch traditionalism and sonic adventure, sophisticated harmony and direct social commentary, glacial minimalism and heartbreaking empathy, earning them an army of notable fellow artists and storytellers, including Mackenzie Crook, Maxine Peake, Nick Hornby, Martin Freeman, Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt, Rosanne Cash, Dawn French, Adrian Edmondson, Stephen Mangan and members of Portishead and Radiohead.
Few of their contemporaries, within both folk music and the wider artistic spectrum, have such a keenly-honed ability to locate in a song the emotional essence that can, in just a single phrase or vocal elision, cut one to the quick. (The Independent)
The Unthanks are capable of such beauty that sometimes I can hardly bear to listen to them.
There are few times when you discover a band and they stalk immediately to the heart of everything you love and hold dear. (Maxine Peake)