Mount the Air

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Mount the Air
Mount the Air.jpg
Studio album by
Released9 February 2015 (UK)
GenreFolk music
LabelRabble Rouser (UK)
Cadiz (USA)
ProducerAdrian McNally
The Unthanks chronology
Songs from the Shipyards
Mount the Air
Archive Treasures 2005–2015
Singles from Mount the Air
  1. "Mount the Air"
    Released: 8 December 2014
  2. "Flutter"
    Released: 16 February 2015
  3. "Died for Love"
    Released: 8 June 2015
Professional ratings
Review scores
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[1]
The Irish Times5/5 stars[2]
Financial Times4/5 stars[3]
The Guardian4/5 stars[4]
The Scotsman4/5 stars[5]
MusicOMH4/5 stars[6]
The Arts Desk4/5 stars[7]
AllMusic4/5 stars[8]
The Skinny4/5 stars[9]
Record Collector4/5 stars[10]
Hartlepool Mail8/10 stars[11]
UNCUT7/10 stars[12]
The Australian3.5/5 stars[13]
The Observer3/5 stars[14]

Mount the Air, the eighth album by English folk group the Unthanks, was released on 9 February 2015. It received five-starred reviews in The Daily Telegraph and The Irish Times and four-starred reviews in the Financial Times and The Guardian. It was the winner in the best album category in the 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.[15][16][17]


The title track was issued as a single on 8 December 2014.[18] "Flutter", another track from the album, was released as a single on 16 February 2015. A third single, "Died For Love", was released on 8 June 2015.[19]


Mount the Air received a five-starred review in The Daily Telegraph. Reviewer Helen Brown described the album as "a slow, swirling affair that mixes original material with traditional tales. Underpinned by McNally’s cool, fluid piano it’s simultaneously ancient and fresh."[1]

Joe Breen, writing in The Irish Times, also gave the album five stars, describing the Unthanks' Mount The Air as "their most ambitious work" and saying that it "places them in the same league as the likes of The Gloaming and the Punch Brothers".[2]

In a four-starred review for the Financial Times, David Honigmann said: "Once a bleak Northumbrian chamber folk outfit, the Unthanks have reinvented themselves on a symphonic scale, as witness the 10-minute title track, ushered in on harps and with an orchestration that recalls Gil Evans’s work for Miles Davis."[3] Robin Denselow, in a four-starred review for The Guardian, said: "This is a return to the gentle melancholia of Last, and while there are fine vocals from the Unthank sisters, the dominant figure is Rachel’s husband, Adrian McNally, who plays keyboards and percussion, and produced and wrote much of the music... It’s a lush, often exquisite set".[4] Alexis Petridis, also writing in The Guardian, said it was "ambitious and rooted in folk traditions, without being hard work for the listener".[20] Jason Noble, in a five-starred review for Culturefly, was impressed by the "phenomenal display of collaborative musicianship, with 16 members contributing to the record".[21] Duncan Haskell, reviewing the album for Songwriting magazine, described it as "a majestic tour de force of classical beauty".[22] Mike Davies, for, hailed it as "a masterpiece".[23] The Hartlepool Mail said it was The Unthanks' "most rewarding record to date".[11]

Teddy Jamieson, writing in the Sunday Herald, said: "The Unthanks return with an album that takes the folk tradition the sisters grew up on and sails it into wilder waters... Folk's storytelling tradition is still very much at the heart of this album. But what thrills here is the sense of scale at play in the music, the unrushed, easeful way the musicians stretch into songs, let them linger without ever overstaying their welcome. That and the earthy humanity of the sisters' voices."[24]

In a four-starred review, Chris White, for MusicOMH, said that Mount the Air "continues The Unthanks’ journey away from the traditional north-east folk of their earlier albums towards a style that's uniquely their own. It's hard to think of another group anywhere who are creating music quite like this; still grounded in the sounds and spirit of their native region yet compositionally on a different planet to the pub back room strums and ceilidh jigs knocked out by most of their contemporaries."[6] Also giving the album four stars, Thomas Ingham, writing for The Skinny, praised "the swelling and soaring arrangements of Adrian McNally, who manages to merge folk with the unease and medieval European gloom of recent records like Last Ex and the infamous In the Aeroplane Over the Sea".[9] Michael Ainscoe, for Louder Than War, described the album as "a textured soundscape of splendour and sensitive intensity".[25]

James Christopher Monger, in a four-starred review for AllMusic, described this Unthanks album as "a far more ambitious outing" than its predecessors.[8] Simon Holland, for Folk Radio UK, said: "With two tracks at over 10 minutes, this was never going to be a short album, but... [it] does what great albums do, takes you on a journey, offers surprises, but gives you rewards on route, satisfying head and heart, with some moments of pure emotional static charge that make the hairs on the neck stand proud."[26] Describing the album as "a floating, swirling, blend of folk, indie-rock, and jazz", Russ Coffey, in a four-starred review for The Arts Desk, said: "Adrian McNally's piano motifs... bring a Wyatt-like warmth. Similarly, Tom Arthur's free-form trumpet lines add a lovely sense of yearning... Mount The Air is, above all, Adrian McNally’s album and shines brightest where his arrangements are at their most ambitious. The title track is masterful: 10 minutes of a grieving Dorset folk song set against Arthur's laconic jazz horn licks".[7] Aaron Lavery, reviewing the album for Drowned in Sound, said: "The Unthanks have never been gentle background music as some might expect, as they’re always drawn to the darker stories that they can dig up. On Mount The Air, those stories are matched by some sumptuous, confident music, and they sound all the better for it."[27]

However, The Observer's Neil Spencer bucked the trend, giving the album three stars, and criticising the "ambitious but lumbering orchestration... Two instrumentals eschew the group’s strength; more voices please".[14] And Jim Wirth, for UNCUT, thought it "stylish, and extremely skillful, but a bit too much arr and not enough trad".[12] Norman Miller, for Bearded magazine, said: "Less kow-towing to the glum side of a band of self-confessed 'miserable buggers' would have been good. As it is, we're left with one masterpiece track, a few good 'uns – and a few too many clunkers".[28]


Mount the Air was the winner in the best album category in the 2016 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.[15][16][17]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Mount The Air" (music by Adrian McNally; first verse based on "I'll Mount the Air on Swallows' Wings" (Roud 578); other words Adrian McNally/Becky Unthank) 10:34
  2. "Madam" (Roud 542) (Traditional, arranged by Adrian McNally) 4:54
  3. "Died For Love" (Roud 60) (Traditional, arranged by Adrian McNally) 3:48
  4. "Flutter" (words by Becky Unthank; music by Becky Unthank/ Adrian McNally) 3:38
  5. "Magpie" (Dave Dodds) 5:03
  6. "Foundling" (Adrian McNally) 10:48
  7. "Last Lullaby" (contains "Golden Slumbers" (traditional); additional words by Rachel Unthank; music traditional) 5:55
  8. "Hawthorn" (Charles Causley/ Becky Unthank/ Adrian McNally) 4:22
  9. "For Dad" (Niopha Keegan) 4:40
  10. "The Poor Stranger" (Roud 414) (Traditional, arranged by Adrian McNally/ Rachel Unthank) 4:01
  11. "Waiting" (Chris Price/Adrian McNally) 3:00


The Unthanks at Castle Armoury Drill Hall, Bury, Greater Manchester, on 17 October 2015, during their UK tour to promote their Mount the Air album
The Unthanks
Additional musicians
  • Lizzie Jones – trumpet, flugelhorn
  • Martin Douglas – drums, percussion
  • Dan Rogers – double bass
  • Tom Arthurs – trumpet on "Mount the Air"
  • Kathleen Ord – violin
  • James Boyle – violin
  • Gabriel Wait – cello
  • Nick Byrne – cello
  • Eilidh Gillespie – flute
  • Esther Swift – harp


The album was recorded and produced by Adrian McNally between August 2012 and October 2014 at the Unthanks' studio in Northumberland. It was mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering. The album sleeve, designed by Steven Wainwright, incorporated photographs by Sarah Mason and artwork by Natalie Rae Reid.[29]


  1. ^ a b Helen Brown (7 February 2015). "Mount the Air, The Unthanks, review: 'a slow, swirling affair'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b Joe Breen (26 February 2015). "The Unthanks: Mount The Air Album Review". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b David Honigmann (6 February 2015). "The Unthanks: Mount The Air — review". Financial Times. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  4. ^ a b Robin Denselow (5 February 2015). "The Unthanks: Mount the Air review – exquisitely melancholic folk". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  5. ^ Fiona Shepherd (7 February 2015). "Album reviews". The Scotsman. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  6. ^ a b Chris White (6 February 2015). "The Unthanks – Mount The Air". musicOMH. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  7. ^ a b Russ Coffey (9 February 2015). "CD: The Unthanks – Mount The Air". The Arts Desk. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  8. ^ a b James Christopher Monger. "The Unthanks: Mount the Air". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  9. ^ a b Thomas Ingham (9 February 2015). "The Unthanks – Mount The Air". The Skinny. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  10. ^ Jamie Atkins (February 2015). "The Unthanks – Mount the Air". Record Collector. London (437). Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  11. ^ a b "ALBUM REVIEW: The Unthanks – Mount The Air". Hartlepool Mail. 14 February 2015. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  12. ^ a b Jim Wirth (20 March 2015). "The Unthanks – Mount The Air". UNCUT. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  13. ^ Tony Hillier (28 March 2015). "Reviews: Kidjo; Keziah Jones; Surf City; Troy Cassar-Daley; Rhiannon Giddens; Unthanks". The Australian. Sydney. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  14. ^ a b Neil Spencer (8 February 2015). "The Unthanks: Mount the Air review – more voices please". The Observer. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Best Album – The Unthanks". The Winners: BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. BBC. 27 April 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  16. ^ a b Martin Chilton (28 April 2016). "The Unthanks win album of the year at 2016 BBC folk awards". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  17. ^ a b Mark Savage (27 April 2016). "The Unthanks win best album at Folk Awards". BBC News. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  18. ^ Alex Gallacher (11 November 2014). "The Unthanks – New Album & Video: Mount The Air". Music news, Video. Folk Radio UK. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  19. ^ Alex Gallacher (21 April 2015). "The Unthanks – New Single and Glastonbury Main Stage". Music news. Folk Radio UK. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  20. ^ Alexis Petridis (13 February 2015). "Why the Unthanks' Mount the Air is the one album you should hear this week – video". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  21. ^ Jason Noble (8 February 2015). "Mount The Air – The Unthanks Review". Culturefly. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  22. ^ Duncan Haskell (11 February 2015). "Mount The Air by The Unthanks (Album)". Songwriting. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  23. ^ Mike Davies (6 February 2015). "THE UNTHANKS – Mount The Air (Rabble Rouser Music RRM013)". Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  24. ^ Teddy Jamieson (8 February 2015). "The Unthanks: Mount The Air (Rabble Rouser)". Sunday Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  25. ^ Michael Ainscoe (2 February 2015). "The Unthanks: Mount The Air – album review". Louder Than War. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  26. ^ Simon Holland (1 February 2015). "The Unthanks – Mount the Air". Folk Radio UK. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  27. ^ Aaron Lavery (3 February 2015). "The Unthanks: Mount the Air". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 4 April 2015.
  28. ^ Norman Miller (9 February 2015). "The Unthanks: Mount the Air (Cadiz Music)". Bearded. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  29. ^ Album sleeve notes

External links[edit]