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GUEST, Tom Bliss Unthanks et al. Why begrudge success? (175* d) RE: Unthanks et al. Why begrudge success? 28 Apr 11

Me too Will. One minute Pete Waterman was whispering in my ear. The next......

It baffles me utterly when this sort of thing happens.

First, why should seeking to make a living in the folk music arena be seen by anyone as a sell out? Composers and songwriters through the ages have always borrowed from and added to the 'working class / un-educated' (or whatever definition you prefer) traditional canon. The Unthanks don't exclusively sing trad material, and even if they did it would not be an issue. No crime there.

And there have always been professional and semi-professional musicians in every genre at every level in every town and village in the world. Always. No crime there either.

All of us who have tried to make a go of it have done so because if you can hit on a workable formula for both your music and your lifestyle, which is financially viable, it's a wonderful way to live. Yes you need to be sure it's worth the risk when you abandon the day job - but you base that decision on feedback from your reviewers, audiences, mentors - and sales. If it doesn't work you slip back from view (as I did). But if it does you rise gently under the Peter Principle - and if you're lucky and good enough you make it to Later. No crime there.

The producers of Later have thousands of brilliant acts to choose from. There is no payola or underhand exchange here. They book acts from a 'folk' background because they are good, because they are popular, and because they know they will work well on the programme. No crime there.

No-one who has ever taken as little as a pint for singing a song should accuse anyone of selling out. (Hell, if they wanted to and enjoyed singing Spice Girl covers and could get bookings for doing so that wouldn't be selling out either).

All successful musicians have found themselves at various points in their careers going down what turns out to be a dead end. Wrong band, wrong material, wrong approach, bad timing - many a slip is inevitable. The good ones pick themselves up, learn from the experience and try again with a slightly different approach. The Unthanks have done exactly this, and they've found a winning formula. And it's not a cheap one either. Singing unaccompanied and keeping all the fee for themselves would buy them a lot more 'for their souls.'

They sounded great the other night - as they usually do. I'll stick with my watercolour in a gilt frame analogy: Accentuating the deliberate simplicity of the singing with the sparse brightness of the accompaniment (try listening again with the Turner image in mind - it might make more sense then) works a treat. People coming from a Jacques Brel (in fact a lot of French popular music), or an Elvis Costello-ish background - (and LOT of people do), get it at once - hence their success.

They fitted perfectly into the show - the whole point of which is juxtaposition, contrast and discovery.

To quote Andy Kershaw quoting John Walters (his and Peel's - and Ralph's - producer). "Our job is not to give people what they want. It's to give people what they din't KNOW they wanted." I think Jool's team would subscribe to that too.

A lot of people already knew they wanted the Unthanks. But now a LOT more people do.

No crime there either.

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