Anyone who has the guts to take a Tom Waits song and make it their own not only deserves a medal but a victory parade to go with it, and for sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank and the rest of their band one spin in an open top car around Northumberland wouldn't be enough. You'll find even richer tracks on 'Last' than their brilliant cover of Waits' 'No One Knows I'm Gone'.
While The Unthanks are filed under folk, their fourth album shows that their sound is bigger than the genre and has the power to undo mindsets in everyone from fans of the growliest metal (here be murders) to prog crusaders (there's an awesome reworking of King Crimson's 'Starless') and convince those whose collection already bulges with protest anthems and the songs of the 18th and 19th centuries that they need some more.
Huge dollops of sweetness are mixed perfectly with dark, heavy stuff that sticks to your ribs, with the original title track the most nourishing of delights and one which shows that for all their mastery as re-arrangers and interpreters, the Unthanks should serve up more of their own stuff in the future.
The first months of 2011 have treated us well musically; by December there will be plenty who will decide that the year's best is left to 'Last'.