Diversions Vol 3 Songs From The Shipyards

Unthanks

Diversions Vol 3 Songs From The Shipyards
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Diversions Vol 3 Songs From The Shipyards

Unthanks

Diversions Vol. 3 contains the music created by The Unthanks for the Tyneside Cinema commissioned film of the same name, Songs From The Shipyards - a beautiful and moving film, tracing the story of shipbuilding. Made by internationally acclaimed North-East filmmaker Richard Fenwick, Songs From The Shipyards is made from archive footage from the past 100 years, and illustrates in microcosm the highs and lows of Britain’s industrial journey. Fenwick and The Unthanks collaborated on the film from the start of the creative process, devising a strong political and human narrative to the story, and creating a unique, powerful, live audio-visual event, in which The Unthanks would perform a live soundtrack to the film.

Diversions Vol. 3 is a studio album that documents a non-sequential ‘best of' the live soundtrack. It is part of a series of side-project releases for The Unthanks, all three of which have been released inside a prolific 12 month period. Vol. 2, released this summer, charted their collaboration with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, while Vol. 1 featured an exploration of the music of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons. On that project, The Unthanks resisted the temptation to tackle Shipbuilding, which was written for Wyatt, knowing that the Shipyards project was just around the corner! The Elvis Costello/Clive Langer classic features on Vol. 3 and represents a rare lead vocal by Unthanks pianist and producer Adrian McNally, backed up by eerie vocals from the rest of The Unthanks. Having performed as no less than a 10-piece live band since 2009, and more recently with an entire brass band on stage, Songs from the Shipyards is a much more sparse and intimate affair, bringing the vocals of Rachel and Becky sharply back to the fore, and is the first record to capture purely the core 5-piece unit that is The Unthanks.

The music draws on the folksong book of the shipbuilding industry, and with the industry being a relatively young one, there is no ‘trad' material. Rather, the album is almost a celebration of the many songwriters from the North East who have written about the subject over the past 40 years. They include Johnny Handle, Jez Lowe, Graeme Miles, and the late Alex Glasgow. The centrepiece of the record however is The Romantic Tees - a self-penned piece devised by Adrian McNally, written to accompany a part of the film called Launch - the beautiful, iconic, cult 1973 film made by Amber Films.

Track Listing:

  1. The Romantic Tees (Prelude)

  2. A Great Northern River

  3. Black Trade

  4. Fairfield Crane

  5. Big Steamers

  6. All In A Day

  7. The Romantic Tees: I - The Romantic Tees Ii - The Tyne Slides By Iii - The Looking Back Song

  8. Shipbuilding

  9. Monkey Dung Man

  10. Taking On Men

  11. Only Remembered

Review

British folk band The Unthanks are on to the third record in their Diversions series. I’ve been really enjoying what they’ve been producing so far with these collaborations – first with the songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony Hegarty of Antony & the Johnsons, and then with the brass ensemble Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, where they reinterpreted some of their own material.

Diversions Vol. 3 celebrates ‘Songs from the Shipyards’, a documentary film on the history of shipbuilding. Tracks here include songs by John Tams and Jez Lowe, and of course Elvis Costello’s classic protest against Margaret Thatcher’s treatment of British shipyards during the Falklands War.


Michael Awosoga-Samuel is a bookseller and music specialist at Readings Carlton.

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