Northern Soul

Monthly Archives: April 2017

Nancy & Beth

Review: Nancy & Beth, Palace Theatre, Manchester

April 25, 2017 No Comments

On paper, it sounds confusing. Two American women perform songs that span rap (Gucci Mane, Run DMC) country (George Jones) and tunes from classic songwriters (Joni Mitchell, Rufus Wainwright).

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The Northern Soul Awards 2017: a celebration of culture and enterprise in the North of England

April 24, 2017 No Comments

The Northern Soul Awards 2017 – a celebration of culture and enterprise in the North of England

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Discovering-Scarfolk-by-Richard-Littler---Ebury-Press

Northern Soul chats to Richard Littler about Scarfolk, online humour and the absurdity of modern values

April 21, 2017 No Comments

Online humour can be a fickle sort of business.

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Ascent by Jed Mercurio

Book review: Ascent by Jed Mercurio

April 21, 2017 No Comments

Now and again you come across a novel so closely published to your own specifications that you strongly suspect the publishers have secretly focus-grouped you to within an inch of your life, and then wiped all memory of it from your mind.

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Review: Indique, West Didsbury, Manchester

April 21, 2017 No Comments

Name your ten best Indian restaurants in Manchester. This and That for value for money and good cooking, obvs, and…actually they’re pretty much all the same.

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Molly Drake Unthanks

Review: The Unthanks, RNCM, Manchester

April 21, 2017 No Comments
One of the many fine and fascinating things about The Unthanks is how they manage to fearlessly represent the very epitome of the folk tradition yet at the same time are so extraordinarily adventurous.

Their last album Mount The Air was one of the most remarkable records of recent years, not least for its melding of Miles-esque jazz with clog dancing. In parallel to their – for want of a better description – mainstream output, they’ve also released a series of Diversions which includes an exploration of the songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons, a rearrangement of the band’s their own output with a brass band, and a celebration of Songs From The Shipyards. The just-released Diversions Vol. 4 provides the basis for their new How Wild The Wind Blows tour and finds them interpreting the songs and poems of Molly Drake.

The Unthanks believe that Molly’s private collection of home recordings, only recently unearthed and made public, “contains songs extraordinary enough to rank alongside and independently of the work of her revered son, Nick Drake”. That’s a slightly contentious assertion, of course, but what’s undeniable is that Molly’s songs do have an intrinsic value of their own, not least as (although they are accomplished and fully realised pieces of work) they were presumably never designed to be exposed to an audience. Thus, they have a bittersweet fragility and innocence that can’t help but prompt comparisons with her son’s output.

FB-The-Unthanks-Diversions-Vol-4-Album-CoverFor the project (and there’s another Extras collection only available from the website or on the tour that includes two of Molly’s finest songs, Happiness and Night Is My Friend, as well as more of her poetry) they teamed up with Molly’s daughter and Nick’s sister – the celebrated actress Gabrielle Drake – and her pre-recorded performances of her mother’s poetry are at least as important to this tour as the always-stunning singing of Rachel and Becky Unthank, or the tasteful musical accompaniment of pianist and arranger Adrian McNally, the double-bass of Chris Price and the violin of Niopha Keegan, as well as tour newcomer Faye MacCalman on clarinet and tenor sax.

As with their Songs From The Shipyards tour, it’s presented as something of a multi-media experience, with Gabrielle’s readings accompanied by on-screen family pictures and a homely-looking set, decorated with the sort of chairs, flowers and standard lamps that you might well have found in the Cambridge living room where Molly’s husband Rodney recorded his wife singing. The unearthed original tape, which few in the RNCM would have already heard, I suspect – indeed the vast majority would not have heard any of the songs at all – is soon to be reissued and thus we’ll have a chance to compare the original versions with The Unthanks’ new arrangements, should we wish.

It might upset the band to hear this but I doubt I will be one of the ones doing so – the fragile magic of the songs as rendered by The Unthanks is enough to prove to me that Molly was indeed a notable talent. But would this show exist without the cult following that’s grown up around her son? Probably not, and they even included River Man, apparently the first Nick Drake song Becky ever heard right here in Manchester, as an encore. But that doesn’t mean that this is not a fascinating, meaningful and strangely moving show, well worth checking out live and definitely on record.

*** It could hardly be more different to the diligence and careful beauty of The Unthanks show by the sounds of it, but surely proving the enduring fascination for all things Nick Drake, The Lowry in Salford hosts a show on June 1 called Strange Face – Adventures With A Lost Nick Drake Recording. This recounts how an unknown version of Cello Song, one of Nick’s greatest works, was rescued by a former post boy at Island Records, who recently travelled the length and breadth of Britain with the aim of offering individuals he randomly stopped in the street, at their places of work or in their homes an exclusive opportunity to hear the recording.

By Kevin Bourke

 

For Unthanks tour details, click here

 

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Richard Bremmer as The Story Giant_©Stephen Vaughan

Review: The Story Giant, Everyman Theatre, Liverpool

April 21, 2017 No Comments

You can’t escape from stories these days.

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Review: Twelfth Night, Royal Exchange, Manchester

April 21, 2017 No Comments

As someone from Stratford-upon-Avon, I’m no stranger to Shakespeare. Walking through the quaint town centre, you can’t shake a feathered quill without bumping into a street performer bellowing lines from King Lear.

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thinking fast and slow

The book that changed my life: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

April 21, 2017 No Comments

I read the book that changed my life, the one I can’t stop telling people about, last year.

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