Rachel Unthank & the Winterset | Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center | Folk & Country, Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Sun., May 31, 7 p.m. 2009
I first heard Rachel Unthank & the Winterset’s second album, The Bairns (Real World), late in 2007, and every time I’ve come back to it since it’s seemed to grow richer. Its acoustic arrangements of traditional songs—many from the northeastern part of England, formerly Northumbria, where sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank were raised—use nothing but voice, piano, violin, cello, and foot stomping, but they’re wildly inventive, with exquisite vocal harmonies, expertly deployed changes in tempo and lead vocalist, and ideas swiped from jazz, pop, and parlor-room tunes. The group’s stellar performances make the music seem simultaneously contemporary and as old as the hills, and even better than the recordings are the live shows—in fact I chose their September 2008 concert at the Old Town School for this year’s Best of Chicago issue. “Most of the tunes on The Bairns are gentle, sparse, and slow,” I wrote, “But the Winterset were raucous, charming, and full of energy, bringing infectious warmth and impressive precision to their repertoire; they were clearly having fun playing off one another musically, and the stories they told to provide background for each song were funny, fascinating, or both.” The Winterset are working on a third album, and I expect they’ll road test some of that material here—but I wouldn’t mind if they just played everything on The Bairns three times. —Peter Margasak



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