Album Review: Overnight by Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker
Very Good, Based on 5 Critics
PopMatters - 80 Based on rating 8/10
It’s a tough prospect for any aspiring folk artist… how does one stay true to the ideals of classic folk in a musical landscape saturated by indie folk/pop hybrids? It’s a question that British folk duo, Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, are able to answer in seemingly effortless fashion. Clarke and Walker are hardly new to the game, however. Their latest record, Overnight, is their fourth in five years.
Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker specialise in melancholy, and the move to a new record label hasn’t altered their approach. They constantly change styles on a set that’s dominated by songs about dusk, the night and dawn, and the mood remains the same as they switch from Elizabethan balladry to country, jazz and 60s pop. Clarke is a compelling singer, influenced by Sandy Denny in both her phrasing and lyrics, and she is finely backed by Walker’s delicate guitar work, and the sparing use of strings, piano and horns.
On their third full-length release, traditionally influenced English folk duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker gently push the boundaries of the hey-nonny-nonny genre. In the past, they've done marvellous things by incorporating Americana and blues influences into their songwriting, and Walker's exquisite guitar playing, combined with Clarke's perfect English Rose of a voice, make these songs seem like the folk music of a new but oddly familiar country.Overnight's departures from form are subtle. A song like "Something Familiar" shows how they can take English trad influence and write it into a modern folk song, while a traditional number like "Weep You No More Sad Fountain" is made immediate sounding and relevant.
Wistful British folk duo Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker follow up make their Rough Trade debut with Overnight, their third album overall. It follows their sparsely arranged four-song EP Through the Clouds, which appeared earlier in 2016, offering a brief glimpse of the forthcoming set. Like each of the duo's releases, Overnight works in a misty milieu of hushed folk delicacy with Clarke's pearly voice weaving around the tasteful guitar work of her counterpart.
Clarke and Walker won best duo award at last year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards and their soundscapes continue to blur the boundaries. Clarke’s Sandy Denny-like vocals, exquisite in their solitary bleakness, continue to be cosseted by an extraordinary array of instrumental accompaniment masterminded by Walker. Whether the eerie folk of Dawn Of The Dark – flutes fluttering in front of a cathedral-like hum – or the gripping, elegant backwoods country-folk of live favourite, Gillian Welch’s Dark Turn Of Mind, every track heads off in a different direction.