The Unthanks are a folk group from Northumberland in the North East of England. Fronted by sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, the quintet have won a series of awards for their bewitching contemporary take on folk music. Part of the appeal is down to the songs, picked by Becky and Rachel from books including the 19th century Northumbrian Minstelsy, or remembered from family gatherings. Some are long-suffering stories about the plight of the poor such as this wintry lament about a hard farming life, where a calf dies in the first verse, and a father in the second.
The local Northumbrian dialect figures prominently in this song. Rachel translated to Spinner: "Kye is cow and gan means go. It sounds like it should be pretty, but it's actually about the times when the English-Scottish borders were debatable and run by local families, lawless. I love that it makes you think it's going to be a nice little ditty and the rest of the song comes out and it's darker."