Songs from the Shipyards was the final release in a trilogy of albums by folk group The Unthanks in a prolific period from the end of 2011 to the end of 2012. The first of the three, The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons was - rather self-evidently - an album of covers by those two artists. It was followed by The Unthanks with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, which boldly reworked some of their own earlier material. Songs from the Shipyards completed the set on its release in November 2012.
The album’s music was originally recorded as a soundtrack to a film of the same name by Richard Fenwick; the film uses archive footage to trace the story of the shipbuilding industry, celebrating its people, places, and rise and fall.
Black Trade - written by Jez Lowe - covers the harsh, tough reality of the workers listed in its looping verses. A piano and solitary violin lend bleak accompaniment; together with the gently arresting harmonies of Rachel and Becky Unthank they create an atmosphere of calm serenity that does its best to beguile you into forgetting the grit and the reality: life is the job when you’re black trade.