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Rachel Unthank & The Winterset

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Northumberland, United Kingdom (2004 – 2009)

Rachel Unthank & the Winterset (formed in 2004 and since 2009 known simply as The Unthanks) are an English folk group from Northumberland, known for their eclectic approach in combining traditional English folk with other musical genres

Rachel Unthank, and sister Becky, were raised in an environment permeated with music and folk song. Both of their parents are singers, and the sisters have been attending and performing at folk festivals for as long as they can remember. Later joined by two additional musicians ‘Rachel Unthank & The Winterset’ came into being, and released an award-winning début album. Pianist / singer Belinda O’Hooley played an important part in pushing the harmonies, textures and sounds of the group beyond the usual folk boundaries, which rapidly made them stand out among their peers. Fiddle and vocals on their first album, ‘Cruel Sister’, were provided by Jackie Oates.

‘Cruel Sister’ was an excellent folk album; however, it is dwarfed as an achievement by its successor, ‘The Bairns’. The lineup only changed by Niopha Keegan replacing Oates (who launched a highly successful solo career); but this is a much more confident, in some ways difficult, but compelling record. Originals appeared for the first time alongside traditional material and unexpected covers from elsewhere. ‘The Bairns’ picked up a Mercury nomination and the band surged to greater renown on the back of it and a relentless live schedule.

However, a little while later, O’Hooley decided to leave (she has since released solo material and formed the duo O’Hooley & Tidow)

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