Thursday, April 17, 2008

Unthank you

In today's Telegraph, there's an interview with the wonderful Rachel Unthank promoting what the paper calls their "latest album" The Bairns. Obviously, it is the latest album, although since it came out in August last year it's not quite as new as the paper might suggest.

You'd have thought the Telegraph would have been able to understand the value of folk music from a nationhood point of view if not out of sympathy for the citizenry, but even this paper struggles to get past the idea that folk music is a chore:

While there's no doubt that the band have given English folk music a shot in the arm, many argue that the real national folk music comes from artists such as Ian Dury and the Kinks, and that conventional folk music is an anachronism. Why sing about knights and maidens when you could be singing about people in call centres?

"Partly it's about respect for previous generations, keeping their stories alive," says McNally. Unthank says: "If you made a piece of art or wrote a book in 1900, you could see it in a museum or read the book. That's what we are doing with songs.

"Not that folk music is a museum thing - you can use modern sensibilities to communicate a timeless story. And most of the stories we sing are about love and loss and death and things that never change."

Still, the interview's heart is in the right place and it's nice to see the Winterset getting the attention they deserve.


5 comments:

Robin Carmody said...

The Telegraph certainly *used to* sympathise with the conservative interpretation of the folk tradition once believed in by those at the top of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, but these days it is simply opposed to anything - including those things many of its own readers will sympathise with - that stands in the way of unchecked global capitalism. This is why it is wary of any reinterpretation of folk: old grudges against "communist folkies", and dubious ideological opposition to any fusion of traditional and modern styles of music, probably still exist but are secondary factors.

Laura Brown said...

Rachel Unthank also gets a mention in, of all places, this month's BBC Wildlife magazine, which has a piece about birdsong's influence on pop music. I don't think they're the most famous band ever to have made a record inspired by a blackbird, though.

(The same issue of BBC Wildlife has a piece about a group of people who formed a society to preserve their local village green, and called it ... Friends of the Trap Grounds. Some people just have no style!)

Robin Carmody said...

Any mention of Virginia Astley in that article?

(I had to check you weren't someone I know, and the "London" location makes it obvious that you're not, though it would have been very doubtful anyway ...)

Laura Brown said...

Any mention of Virginia Astley in that article?

I'm afraid not. But in slightly related weirdness, the brand-new issue of the RSPB's Birds magazine has a review of the most recent British Sea Power album.

Robin Carmody said...

Blimey. Things *have* changed since I was in the YOC.

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