Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker(external resources)
British duo Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker have risen to star status lately on the English acoustic scene, earning last year’s Best Duo award from the BBC in their Folk Awards, and across-the-board praise for two self-released albums, most recently ‘Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour’ with its lush single “Silverline”.
On March 4th, Clarke & Walker will release a new EP, ‘Through The Clouds,’ worldwide via Rough Trade, featuring a handful of the best tracks from their small catalog, rearranged anew. ‘Through The Clouds’ is meant as an introduction to the duo; in addition to “Silverline,” it features a new, stripped-down version of “Done” (ballads on opposite sides of love & loneliness), an alternate mix of the spooky Shirley Collins cover “Hares On The Mountain,” and the original album version of “The Tangled Tree,” a brilliant showcase of Clarke’s vocal range and expression.
Today, Stereogum premiered the EP version of “Silverline,” along with an arresting live Rough Trade Session version of the track, calling them "a magnificent sound to behold.” Listen to “Silverline” here: https://youtu.be/3zmrEVa8NU and check out the session here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8oWk6OMfdM
While the Guardian anointed them “chamber folk" in this four-star live review, and they certainly cut their teeth in that thriving part of the UK music scene, Clarke is an unusually compelling singer, with more in common with Sandy Denny, Gillian Welch, or even Nina Nastasia and Laura Marling, than a staid “folk qua folk” artist.
Walker is a prodigiously talented guitarist and arranger, and the two of them are engaging and often funny in a live setting, where in addition to their own songs, they choose covers brilliantly, from Denny, to Jackson C. Frank, to Nina Simone, to death-obsessed traditional ballads. While Clarke is a classical music degree dropout, they’re both careful to note they’re public school kids who didn’t benefit from a conservatory education; the elegance and sophistication of the music they’re able to create together comes instead from their own innate talent and disciplined dedication to craft.
Clarke & Walker will be recording their Rough Trade debut album this spring for a Fall 2016 release, with an eye toward bringing bigger, more modern arrangements and production to their beautifully-wrought songs and Clarke’s tremendous voice.