They may be pretty, but that's where the saccarin ends with North-East sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank. There is currently a host of talented female folk singers with technically superior voices to Rachel and Becky, but few seemingly brave enough to take the risks and push their talents to a degree that might reveal some genuine vulnerability or conviction. With Rachel and Becky Unthank, there is no comfort zone or safety margin, and they're all the more engaging for it. Brought up in a family steeped in folk traditions, Cruel Sister is the challenging sound they have finally poured their heritage into. It's a sound which marries uncompromised tradition with cutting edge musical values, resulting in an album that belongs to both the present and the past.
Guest musicians on the album include Last Night's Fun concertina wizard Chris Sherburn, Julian Sutton of Kathryn Tickell band fame on melodeon, Edinburgh's Rosie Morton on Clarsach and guitarist David Kotsky.
Rachel and co. enter into a market saturated with female folk singers, but so far Rachel and Becky aren't being compared to any of the talented current crop. Comparisons most recently have been toward June Tabor and Lal Waterson. As flattering to Rachel and Becky as these references are, they aren't necessarily related to voice or talent, but perhaps more related to their approach to traditional music. Rachel has the conviction and bravery to take risks with her singing if it helps get a story across, while Becky has a seductive and sultry voice to die for.
On A Monday Morning
January Man; Fair Rosamund
Rap Her To Bank
Twenty Long Weeks
The Fair Flower Of Northumberland
The Greatham Calling On Song
Bonnie At Morn