Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker are described by Rough Trade Record founder, Geoff Travis as “a sublime and important act.”
They won Best Duo at the 2015 BBC Folk Awards – a major achievement at any stage of an artist’s career. Their ovation-stirring rendition of the traditional ballad ‘The Banks of the Sweet Primroses’ at the televised awards ceremony prompted 6 Music DJ Cerys Matthews to invite them to appear in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s ‘Our Country’s Good’ at The National Theatre. Josienne and Ben were incredibly honoured (and not a little daunted) to perform two original compositions in the production. The Financial Times review of the play said “Josienne Clarke sings like a haunted angel.”
While much of their music is characterised by lush chamber ensemble orchestrations, what truly sets them apart is the combination of Josienne’s divinely nuanced, emotionally affecting voice and Ben’s intricately expressive, adroit guitar technique. They cite Sandy Denny, June Tabor, Nic Jones and Pierre Bensusan as respective influences but theirs is a captivating sound that is all their own.
Although Ben Walker studied classical guitar from childhood and Josienne Clarke is a classical music degree dropout, both are keen to stress that they are “bog standard comprehensive school kids” who didn’t benefit from a conservatoire education. The elegance and sophistication of their music comes entirely from their own discipline, rigour and craft.
The way this duo inhabit songs that are sometimes centuries old, making them personal and present again, while also pricking the heart with their own tales of everyday love and loss, makes the music of Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker a rare and precious thing.