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Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker - Fire & Fortune (Review)

Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, Fire & Fortune

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

CLASSICALLY trained duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker have delivered a folk album in Fire & Fortune that’s steeped in classic values. It’s also really good.

Comprised of 12 tracks of some carefully selected traditional songs re-imagined and others equally carefully picked original compositions, the album also drifts between sparse moments when Josienne’s jewel-like voice can command centre-stage and other more layered moments that really underline their instrumental prowess too.

At its best, the album works from a fuller bodied sound, when both elements combine. Hence, Another Perfect Love has a delightfully laidback blend of piano and bass that serve to create an almost jazz-folk vibe. Josienne’s vocals provide a sedate focal point that you can’t help but want to hear.

Title track Fire & Fortune with its swoon-worthy harmonies, thud-like drums and clicking beats also delivers the goods… especially once Josienne drops a more seductive vocal. The later inclusion of a Flamenco sounding guitar is an extra nice touch.

And Anyone But Me has a striking mix of violins and bass that contribute to another of the album’s more distinct and most enjoyable highlights (coming alive, quite beautifully, during the instrumental especially).

But even in its quieter, less intricate moments there’s a compelling quality about the album. The Month of January is almost Clannad-esque at times (and is both haunting and ethereal), while opening effort After Me and closing effort When A Knight Won His Spurs underline the duo’s ability to successfully combine the new and contemporary with the resolutely traditional.

For those wanting to know more about this partnership, Josienne was born in Sussex and Ben, in Evesham. It was after studying in London, and utterly by chance, that they met in July 2009. But they have been working together ever since.

Critical acclaim soon followed, along with the Isambard Folk Award and the FATEA award for Female vocalist of the year. Though influenced by greats such as Sandy Denny, Richard and Linda Thompson, Nick Drake, Bert Jansch and June Tabor, Fire & Fortune marks two musicians who have resolutely found their own path through traditional English music.

The results are, as we’ve mentioned, fiercely compelling.

Download picks: Another Perfect Love, Fire & Fortune, Anyone But Me, The Month of January

Track listing:

  1. After Me
  2. The Month of January
  3. The Seasons
  4. Another Perfect Love
  5. My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose
  6. Sycamore Tree
  7. Fire & Fortune
  8. Green Grow The Laurels
  9. Anyone But Me
  10. A Pauper And A Poet
  11. No Such Certainty
  12. When A Knight Won His Spurs