JOSIENNE CLARKE AND BEN WALKER | London, Purcell Room

At Southbank’s beautiful Purcell Room Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker presented their new album Nothing can bring back the Hour (released on Folkroom Records).

The folk duo have created some stunning albums in the last couple of years, and have been quietly gaining momentum on the folk circuit, with a BBC folk award nomination for ‘Best Duo’ under their belts this year.

If the evening was anything to go by, the newest album is even more delightful, powerful and ambitious than the last. The first act saw the duo joined by some esteemed friends, including Samantha Whates, Sam Brookes and four-piece Tir Eolas — each playing a tantalisingly short set — showing the breadth and depth of talent on the contemporary folk scene at the moment. It was great to hear collaborations between different members of these groups and the warmth and clear affection shown between each act was lovely to watch. The only let-down was the slightly low level of the main vocal mic, which meant that we didn’t quite catch the majesty of Josienne Clarke and Sam Brookes’ voices in full force.

In the second act, Josienne and Ben proceeded to play their new album in full, from start to finish. This is something that should be done much more often — hearing a full album live, with commentary between songs from the artists, is a revelatory experience. With songs ranging from the traditional (‘The Queen of Hearts’), to the whimsical (‘I never learned French’), to the hearbreaking (funeral march ‘Earth and Ash and Dust’), it felt as if we were taken on a deeply personal journey with the two young performers. I implore you to buy the album.

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