Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker award winning folk duo from Britain will have their debut Australian performances in March 2018. Performing at MODERN FOLK! FROM BRITAIN at the Thornbury Theatre Melbourne with fellow British singer-songwriter Blair Dunlop. They will also perform at Port Fairy Folk Festival and the Blue Mountains Music Festival.
For Rough Trade founder Geoff Travis, Josienne and Ben’s 2014 album “Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour “ quickly became his favourite record of the year. Bringing them to the label was a way of ensuring their unique music could continue to bloom and also reach a much wider set of ears. The album brought Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker an
extraordinary and unexpected amount of attention. They won Best Duo at the 2015 BBC Folk Awards– a major achievement at any stage of an artist’s career.
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’s all their own.
Ben Walker (who grew up in Worcestershire) studied classical guitar from childhood and Josienne Clarke (from West Sussex) is a classical music degree dropout.
The elegance and sophistication of their music comes entirely from their own discipline, rigour and craft. The New York Times reported ‘Their elegant new album indulges with a hushed but cleareyed purpose’
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.
The Guardian, Geoff described Josienne and Ben as “a sublime and important act.”
“Josienne Clarke’s voice has developed into an instrument of great depth and versatility, but on this first album for Rough Trade, it is absolutely magnificent. Occasionally she sounds like her hero Sandy Denny, but at other times she sings like Chet Baker plays the trumpet – a thing of almost unmatched beauty.” Shire Folk
‘It’s all too rare one hears a voice that cuts through the crap to the heart of human frailty and romantic anguish.Clarke’s is one of those: a sound as pure and true as any of the folk sirens who inspired her. In Walker, moreover, she has a collaborator and accompanist of exquisite dexterity” Barney Hoskyns.
In October 2017 Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker supported the legendary Richard Thompson on his UK tour. And during that month they released The Birds EP . Josienne and Ben are currently working on their second album for Rough Trade Records to be released in 2018.
The Birds EP by Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker. The Birds is a suite of six songs that explore the themes of migration and departure. These are songs of autumn and shorter days, of flying south and the first feelings of early winter. It is deliberately dark and melancholic and ever so slightly sinister in places. In contrast to the full band-sound so exquisitely captured on their 2016 album Overnight, Josienne and Ben chose to record in a minimalist way using only instruments that they could play in Ben’s basement home studio. It also allowed Ben the opportunity to experiment with Moog and drum machine rendering the songs with a subtle electronic texture.
Here are Josienne’s descriptions of each track of The Birds EP.:
‘The Birds’ is about that first cold breeze of Autumn/Winter, it’s always accompanied by a shift in mood for me. A kind of longing, a melancholy, the dusky afternoons, the long dark nights. One can kind of see why some birds might avoid it and whilst I love a bit of melancholy there’s always that bit of me that longs to go with them to somewhere lighter and warmer.
A beautiful Dolly Parton tune, that captures the sparse longing of winter. It’s the image of a little Sparrow that “flys so high and feels no pain” I’d always sung it A Capella as a little mic test tune at soundchecks and then Ben had this great bluesy electric part he added one day and we started performing it.
‘Darkling Bird’ Is The Magpie, a bird with a slightly dark folkloric image. There is something very melancholic about them with which I naturally identify, and of course they have this reputation as thieves. I got some inspiration for this from the Thomas Hardy poem ‘Darkling Thrush’ which is a winter setting, but whereas in that the Thrush is a symbol of hope, in mine the magpie is more ominous. It also contains a reference to Rossini’s opera La Gazza Ladra (The thieving Magpie) “all desire for acquiring of a silver spoon” where a magpie causes no end of trouble by pinching a spoon.
I saw two crows in a tree last winter and this single line came to me about how sinister they look. Ben rather liked it so he set an instrumental quartet around it.
A traditional folk song about a transient bird most commonly associated with spring who flies at the first sign of winter, they are mostly solitary birds. Ben decided to counter the traditional with the modern on this setting by using his moog to create pulsing drones and percussive layers.
This is the main murmuration metaphor to conclude the suite, the birds are about to leave. The layered vocals in the chorus Ben has arranged to depict the image of a flock of birds swooping and swirling in the sky before departing south.