He’s one of the UK’s most treasured songwriters, but now the spotlight will shine on his mum.

The work of Nick Drake's mother Molly is considered “extraordinary enough” to rank alongside those of her son.

Described as “charming and bittersweet, yet dark and pensive” - like Nick’s - her songs were recorded at home by her husband in the 1950s.

Now Mercury-nominated Geordie folk group The Unthanks have ‘reimagined’ them with full support from the Drake estate.

Along with poems read by actress Gabrielle Drake (Molly’s daughter and Nick’s sister) The Unthanks will tour their interpretations with a five piece band.

It’s a clever departure for the Northumbrian sisters and their musical director Adrian McNally.

They could just as easily have gone for versions of Nick’s songs, instantly tapping into his huge fan base.

But exploring Molly’s archive adds another layer to Nick’s story, who signed to Island Records at the age of 20, before tragically dying from an overdose of antidepressants in 1974 at the age of 26.

In his short recording career he made just three albums, now considered seminal in the folk pop canon.

‘How Wild The Wind Blows - The Unthanks Perform The Songs & Poems Of Molly Drake’ is the fourth in the band’s series of ‘Diversions,’ a platform they created for self-contained projects honouring amongst others Robert Wyatt and Anthony & The Johnsons.

Becky Unthank, the younger of the two sisters, said it’s been a useful format.

She said: “We were always going to do this project but the Diversions gives us a banner to do it. People will know it’s not the normal Unthanks project - but they have no idea of what they’re going to get.”

She first came across Nick Drake’s work at the age of 16 - via a free CD on the front of a music magazine - and learnt the song River Man without having a clue who the singer was.

Then Gabrielle Drake saw The Unthanks perform, sent the band an album of Molly’s work, and the idea for the project was developed.

And in a slight departure from their usual process, which sees Adrian locked away in a room by himself working on the arrangements, Becky had a hand in them too - although she’s not sure if she was “a help or a hindrance.”

She added: “I’m quite an emotional singer and person but this time it’s not about that. These songs are more about human feelings and I think Molly had great empathy for the human condition.

“They’re reflective and you can see she had a shared emotion with her son. But that’s part of the mystique - people have been grasping to know him because so little was known about him.”

His fans are ardent in their admiration, but Nick’s refusal to do interviews or promote his work coupled with his loner personality led to poor record sales.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that his work came to represent a certain strand of doomed romance and his back catalogue grew in popularity.

But it was his mother Molly who encouraged the young Nick to sing and play, and from an early age he composed his own songs.

Becky said: “I think you can tell they were a close family, and that’s really nice.”

As for the staging of the nationwide tour, Becky expects the shows to be “quite low-key and calm,” and will include footage of the Drake family as well as readings of Molly’s poetry by actress Gabrielle, who is known for her roles in 1970s series UFO, as well as The Avengers and Coronation Street.

But there’s no doubt Adrian will continue to honour Becky and Rachel’s voices with his now trademark brooding arrangements - although she worries her vocal style can be restrictive. “I think in some ways I limit what can be done. I have got quite a grainy tone to my voice but I can only sing at a calm volume.

“But sometimes these boundaries can send you in a controlled direction.”

Although The Unthanks’ launching pad is often the rich seam of traditional English folk songs, their meanderings into the work of the artists they love have also won them critical acclaim. This is sure to be another successful Diversion.

‘Diversions Vol 4. – How Wild The Wind Blows The Unthanks Perform The Songs & Poems Of Molly Drake’ comes to Turner Sims on May 2. The album is released on May 26.