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Rachel Unthank and the Winterset: this year's Mercurial folk

Time of year for a spot of excitement as the list of 10 finalists in the Mercury Music Prize awards is released.

Token folkies? There on merit, irrespective of genre? Snowball in hell's chance of winning?

Never mind the answers (Probably, Yes and No in Salut! Live's honest judgement). Just offer congratulations to Rachel Unthank and the Winterset for making it on to the 2008 shortlist if, like me, you feel The Bairns was an excellent album.

The "are they folk?/are they any good?" debates will presumably be cranked back into some sort of spurious life, whether at Mudcat or elsewhere.

I have already caught one or two references at The Word, a rock magazine site that attracts a fair amount of intelligent comment.

Trevor Raggart had this to say, during a midly cynical summing up of the list:

Rachel Unthank And The Winterset's 'The Bairns' - one for the REAL folkies to tug their beards along to. Clearly Ms Polwart and Ms Rusby were unavailable this year.

DogFacedBoy chips in the thought that Trevor's "REAL folkies"
hate the Unthanks don't they? See them as the folk equivalent of Girls Aloud with their major distribution deal and shiny happy faces. Much bitterness and gnashing of teeth when they won at the BBC Folk awards. Seen em a couple of times live and they were aces. Though this has meant I've agreed with Paul Morley on something, so its not all good.

After which follows a mini-debate on folk purism, including the thorny question of whether a piano, as opposed to "a stick and a hat", can be termed a true folk instrument. If this is what happens at a rock site, where most people couldn't care less, I dread to think of the knives being sharpened for further use at Mudcat.

But along the way, we - Salut! Live - get a mention, and even a light pat on the back, and Rachel & band clock up a little more recognition, so thanks you, The Word

And for the record, the other nominees are Robert Plant, Radiohead, Adele, British Sea Power, Estelle, Last Shadow Puppets, Neon Neon, Burial, Laura Marling, Portico Quartet and Elbow. The final takes place on Sept 9 and will be televised on BBC 2, with coverage on Radio 1 and Radio 2, reports Rachel's manager (and her chap), Adrian McNally.

For further reading, see:

Rachel Unthank The Big Interview (1)

Rachel Unthank The Big Interview (2)

Rachel Unthank The Big Interview (3)

Adrian McNally The band's invisible member


Steve Drayton

Rachel Unthank on Word Website - You misread the comments made about the band - many posters on the site have been very supportive of the Wintersets achievements, lots of posters have bought The Bairns because of the recommendations on the site. The magazine has supported them too.

colin randall

Steve: both the comments I quote were supportive, in word or spirit. So I feel the point you make was also made in my piece.
My only problem with Rachel is that she supports the wrong North-eastern football team

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