Spin - p.92
"[I]ts doomed subjects are well served by the band's dark, gentle strums and ghostly piano lines."
Q (Magazine) - p.1123 stars out of 5
-- "Their trad arrangements of others' songs are bewitching, particularly the haunting sad 'Annachie Gordon'..."
Uncut (magazine)4 stars out of 5
-- "[There is] a wintry eloquence to much of TENDER....Rarely has the deep past sounded so stirring, or so modern."
It could have been commercial suicide. In the wake of a breakthrough success, Rachel Unthank & the Winterset have not only changed the band's name to the more encompassing and curate the Unthanks, they've also made huge personnel changes. It's certainly not a strategy a marketing man would recommend, but this is a band that's always been about the art, not the commercial success. The basis remains folk music from the Northeast of England, and the fuller sound of a nine-piece band changes the backing and fills it out splendidly, with bass and drums giving a firm foundation. The focus on the singing of sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank is, if anything, firmer than before, and nowhere is that clearer than on the harrowing "The Testimony of Patience Kershaw," about child labor in the Victorian mines, or the heartbreaking beauty of the traditional "Annachie Gordon." However, although there's plenty of gloom and doom on this disc, it's leavened by some lighter spots, such as "Betsy Belle." For the most part, it works, the only real failure coming with a cover of Lal Waterson's "At First She Starts," a piece so personal that outsiders trying to find a way into it are largely doomed -- but it's a brave attempt, and says a lot about the scope and confidence of the group. Musically, there's much greater richness and variety in the arrangements now, heightening the shadings that have always been there, and bringing them to the fore, while also making it easier for a wider audience. ~ Chris Nickson