The Unthanks

Diversions, Vol. 1: The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons - Live from the Union Chapel, London

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Recorded live in 2011 over the span of two nights at London's Union Chapel, Diversions, and Vol. 1: The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons finds the Northumbrian ensemble tackling the works of a pair of fellow Anglo-eccentrics. Of the two, it's the mournful and elegant Antony Hegarty whose work most closely mirrors sisters Becky and Rachel Unthank's distinctive blend of brooding traditional folk and moor-darkened chamber pop, and their versions of beloved A&J cuts like "Bird Gerhl" and "Spiralling" reveal hidden corners and secret rooms, while keeping the originals' foundations intact. Horns are introduced on "Stay Tuned," the first of six Wyatt tunes, all of which manage to dutifully convey his gift for balancing childlike naïveté with gut-wrenching truth. Renditions of "Free Will and Testament," "Lullaby for Hamza," and a muscular take on 2007's "Out of the Blue" shine as well, before winding down with a trio of originals, resulting in one of the more riveting and idiosyncratic tribute albums of the past ten years.

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