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Baker's Dozen

Ongoing Adventures: Rachel Unthank's Favourite Albums
Jude Rogers , March 25th, 2020 10:23

Jude Rogers speaks to Rachel Unthank about her abiding love for and political importance of maintaining the folk tradition... but explains she wasn't averse to a bit of Faith No More when it all got too much. This week's Baker's Dozen.


The Watersons – Frost And Fire>
This had a massive impact on the way my parents brought us up, especially my dad, who's a singer himself. Here were a family from the North digging into old songs and traditions, and it made Dad really interested in doing the same. He became a member of a longsword team – I know – and then he got into reviving Mummers' plays, including the only surviving Mummers' play including its own dance. Every Boxing Day, us kids would be dragged down to see it, Dad playing this character who would be killed and brought to life again [laughs]. So many of our rituals as a family were about similar things: carolling on the green, singing folk in the pub and having this real passion for the seasons.

For me, revisiting tradition is very rooted in wanting to recognise social struggles, the situations of the working classes, and the pastoral. These songs aren't about looking backwards and inwards, but about learning about the realities of your culture and wanting to share it with others. I remembering going to a Swedish festival some time ago, being encouraged to share songs from where I was from, and realising then what a very powerful currency those songs were. They help you connect with other countries' forgotten stories and emotions – and actually, that's something that happened to me in Harare doing Africa Express as well. These Ethiopian women encouraging me to sing for them, and then watching their reactions… it's very moving seeing people respond to these songs from different parts of the world. It makes you realise there's so much that connects us.