JOSIENNE CLARKE AND BEN WALKER – Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour (Folk Room)

ClarkeWalker_HourHailing from Sussex and Evesham respectively, the pair are steeped in the folk traditions of English songwriting with influences drawn from, among others, Sandy Denny, Richard and Linda Thompson, June Tabor, Nick Drake and Bert Jansch. Their joint debut, Seas Are Deep, was a collection of well-known traditional numbers, while the follow up, Fire & Fortune, mixed traditional and self-penned material to sublime effect.

Taking its title from Wordsworth’s Intimations of Mortality, with the sort of pensive and melancholic mood that implies, the same applies here, Clarke writing the words and music and providing recorder, sax and flute with Walker handling the orchestration arrangements and playing guitars, mandolin, banjo and keys, joined by John Parker on double bass, Ruairi Glasheen on percussion and Jim Moray on piano as well as an array of backing musicians on strings and brass.

Of the three traditional numbers, it’s fair to say that the best known will be ‘Let No Man Steal Your Thyme’, Clarke’s fairly familiar forlorn interpretation offset by a bold arrangement that weaves its way from keyboard drone through medieval coloured flute to puttering drum rhythm, Spanish guitar and parping sax. Introduced by willowy recorder and flute, it’s preceded by the courtly textures of ‘The Queen of Hearts’, cello and acoustic guitar crafting a stately pavane setting, while the third offering is a more traditional folk reading of ‘I Wonder What Is Keeping My True Love Tonight’ accompanied simply by fingerpicked guitar.

With its pizzicato violin and lush strings, self-penned, dreamy ballad opener, ‘Silverline’, is an early taster of the new richness and delicacy in Walker’s classical inspired arrangements, a development reinforced by the short, cello and violin accompanied ‘A Simple Refrain’ on which Clarke’s joined on vocals by Sam Brookes for a tender love song swathed in pastoral clouds.

Things heat up a little rhythmically on ‘It Would Not Be A Rose’, strings circling around acoustic guitar and hand percussion as Samantha Whates’ backing vocals blend with Clarke’s pure, leafy tones. ‘The Tangled Tree’ is another number steeped in natural imagery that addresses its theme of caged spirits and the cruel passing of time with a slow sonic gathering built upon ghostly multi-tracked backing vocals, somber piano and backwards guitar.

Things take a diversion for both ‘I Never Learned French’, a reverie of regret in a retro 30s frame, dawn breaking over the Paris skyline to the strains of a muted, melancholic trumpet, and, a personal favourite, ‘Moving Speeches’, a sprightly snare beat and banjo-accompanied skip through American folk backroads, Clarke sometimes sounding spookily like Denny. It comes as something of a shock, then, to slip into ‘Mainland’, a four minute experimental number that opens to the desolate sound of a sparse cello drone, siren call and breaking waves before the arrival of Clarke’s quivering, emotionally numbed vocals against an electronic backdrop as the number gradually swells over scuffed drums and treated guitars in a manner that suggests a darkside version of Clannad.

There’s similar experimentation at work on ‘Earth And Ash And Dust’, ushered in on a pulse of backwards treated guitar giving way to a scattering of sombre Spanish guitar notes as Clarke’s vocals eventually merge with the wordless backing to become the choir of some Renaissance cathedral frozen in time.

Things are more restrained for ‘Now You Know’, a slow, measured ballad with Walker’s simple repeated guitar pattern adorned by sweeping strings and French horn, with the album ending its journey in the early hours at some dimly-lit cellar bar blues club with a sleepy-eyed jazz trio and strings section for ‘Water To Wine’, Clarke evoking vintage Janis Ian with a resigned reflection on a self-denying uncertain future as she resolves to “do something good with my life” but must “accept that whatever I find it won’t be mine.” Whatever the future holds, it will be the more bearable for their music.

Mike Davies

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Artists’ website: www.josienneclarke.co.uk

‘Silverline’ – the official video:

WILL POUND ON BREAKFAST TV

Will Pound 2HARMONICA WIZARD & BBC RADIO 2 FOLK AWARDS“MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR” NOMINEE WILL POUND TO APPEAR ON BBC BREAKFAST TV

Recognised as one of the best harmonica players of his generation, 26-year-old Will Pound is due to appear on BBC Breakfast Television on the morning of the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (Wednesday, February 19) where he is nominated for the coveted Musician of the Year title .

Will, who lives on a narrowboat in Oxfordshire will contest the title against Sam Sweeney, Martin Simpson and Aidan O’Rourke and the winner will be unveiled at the Awards ceremony to be held at the Royal Albert Hall.

But first he will be a sofa guest on BBC One’s Breakfast at Salford’s MediaCity, chatting to presenters Bill Turnbull and Naga Munchetty and playing live.

An outstanding natural talent, Will has quickly made his mark on the acoustic scene against the odds, despite suffering from dyslexia and not reading music. Born with a heart defect and having to undergo several operations as a child, Will was encouraged to take up the harmonica by his father as a way of helping with his breathing and overall health – and it certainly worked!

Last autumn he released A Cut Above, a barnstormer of a debut solo album which has received widespread acclaim from the UK to South Africa, America and Australia. An effervescent, life-affirming album it acrobatically hops across bluegrass, folk and jazz to blues, rock, pop and funk featuring both new arrangements of trad numbers and inventive original material. Be it a sultry take on Amazing Grace, the jaunty title track written by Will and wife Nicky or the barely-time-to-catch-your-breath bluegrass fave Clinch Mountain Back Step, it is a compelling and dazzling display of virtuosity.

Just before Christmas Will guested on BBC Radio 2’s Folk Show, presented by Mark Radcliffe. In late 2012 the harp ace joined forces with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Paloma Faith, Beverley Knight, Shane MacGowan, Glenn Tillbrook and Mel C on the Hillsborough charity single – the emotive cover of The Hollies classic He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother – which became the Christmas No.1. Will also played a key role on the accompanying video, opening the song with a poignant harmonica solo.

Will has now formed his own Will Pound Band with renowned musicians Henry Webster (violin), the 2013 London Fiddle Convention Competition winner; guitarist Chris Sarjeant( Jackie Oates Band) and John Parker (double bass), one half of UK chart topping Nizlopi, who has also guested with Newton Faulkner, Ed Sheeran and Paper Aeroplanes.

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WILL POUND…..WILL MAKES THE CUT ….

Will Pound 1Recognised as one of the best harmonica players of his generation, 26-year-old Will Pound shows why he is undoubtedly “A Cut Above” with the release of a barnstormer of a debut solo album and new planned tour dates.

Together with banjo player Dan Walsh he made his name in the duo Walsh and Pound but now he steps out on his own in this eclectic 12-track album.

Nominated for the 2012 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards “Musician of the Year” title Oxfordshire-based Will lives on a narrowboat – making the album title especially apt, with “cut” being slang for canal.

Playing both diatonic and chromatic harmonica he reaches the parts others harp players simply don’t. An outstanding natural talent, Will has quickly made his mark on the acoustic scene against the odds, despite suffering from dyslexia and not reading music. Born with a heart defect and having to undergo several operations as a child, Will was encouraged to take up the harmonica by his father as a way of helping with his breathing and overall health – and it certainly worked!

An effervescent, life-affirming album A Cut Above acrobatically hops across bluegrass, folk and jazz to blues, rock, pop and funk featuring both new arrangements of traditional numbers and inventive original material. Be it a sultry take on Amazing Grace, the jaunty title track written by Will and wife Nicky or the barely-time- to-catch-your-breath bluegrass fave Clinch Mountain Back Step, this is a compelling and dazzling display of virtuosity.

Will Pound 2

WHAT THE MEDIA ARE SAYING ABOUT A CUT ABOVE

“An absolute barnstormer of a debut album – punchy, wonderful energy and virtuoso playing”Tom Robinson, BBC 6 Music

“This album is a complete stunner – damn, damn good! A genius of the tin sandwich!” – Mike Harding

“This album is pretty spectacular – what an incredible gift – what a genius this man is!” – Bruce Macgregor, BBC Radio Scotland

The album is produced by Andy Seward and Andie Thomson and Will is aided and abetted by some of the finest musicians on the scene  –  guitar genius Martin Simpson, melodeon ace Andy Cutting, top Scottish folk musician Kris Drever, 2012 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year Tim Edey and Irish singer/multi-instrumentalist Damien O’Kane.

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Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Last year the harp ace joined forces with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams, Paloma Faith, Beverley Knight, Shane MacGowan, Glenn Tillbrook and Mel C on the Hillsborough charity single – the emotive cover of The Hollies classic He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother – which became the Christmas No.1. Will also played a key role on the accompanying video, opening the song with a poignant harmonica solo.

Will has now formed his own Will Pound Band with key musicians Henry Webster – (violin), the 2013 London Fiddle Convention Competition winner; guitarist Chris Sarjeant (Jackie Oates Band) and John Parker (double bass), one half of UK chart topping Nizlopi, who has also guested with Newton Faulkner, Ed Sheeran and Paper Aeroplanes.

A Cut Above is released on Pound’s Lulubug Records label and distributed by Proper Distribution. On December 4, Will, joined by bass player John Parker, will be live in session on BBC Radio 2’s Mark Radcliffe Show.

Artist’s website: www.willpound.com