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30 from 17: #25 - The Unthanks

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by Jason Lewis, UK Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: December, 2017
The highlight of the album is the anguished Set Me Free

#25
The Unthanks
Diversions, Volume 4: The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake
(Rabble Rouser)


Molly Drake never released any of songs or poems during her own lifetime. However, as the legacy of her son Nick has grown, scratchy recordings that she made on home equipment in the 1950's have been unearthed and unpublished poetry that she wrote has also seen the light of day.  She is now regarded as a fascinating 'missing link' ( to quote Nick's former producer Joe Boyd), in his story. 

And now The Unthanks have decided to devote an entire album to Molly's work.  Becky and Rachel's pronounced Tyneside harmonies combine with Adrian McNally's subtle piano playing  and sympathetic arrangements to create a portrait of a reflective and melancholy character. 

There's an assumption that, as the writer of tender and reflective numbers such as the opener What Can a Song Do To You, that Molly would have been an influence on young Nick.  However, this is not merely an exercise in connecting the dots,  these songs and poems are beautiful in their own right.   

Throughout the album several of Molly's poems are read by her daughter, the actress Gabrielle Drake.  The aching 'Martha' is a poignant contemplation on mortality, whilst the remarkable The Shell' contemplates casing we need to have to survive the 'outer desolation' of the world around us. 

The highlight of the album is the anguished Set Me Free, a song of needing to escape from unrequited love.   As with many of The Unthanks finest songs, it features  exquisite and emotional fiddle playing by Niopha Keegan.

'The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake' is a compelling album and possibly one of The Unthanks finest achievements to date.   It is full of emotional longing and wise reflections, an album whose subtle power lingers after every listen.

View/Listen to the entire playlist on YouTube here

 

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Jason Lewis
UK Music Editor

Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.

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