This duo inhabit songs that are sometimes centuries old, making them personal and pre-sent again. The perfect pairing of exquisite vocals and virtuosic guitar, they tackle tales of love and loss, creating a sound so sublime it pricks the heart. Given the often devastatingly sad and poetic lyrics of Josienne’s original songs, and the frequently death and doom-laden nature of the traditional songs they interpret, their live shows are surprisingly uplifting, with a gentle sense of humour lightening the mood. They cite Sandy Denny, June Tabor, Nic Jones and Pierre Bensusan as influences, but theirs is a captivating sound that’s all their own.
The misery, mirth and sheer beauty of their performances has taken them to such auspicious stages as Cambridge Folk Festival, Bristol’s Colston Hall and London’s Purcell Rooms. In 2015, they won Best Duo at the BBC Folk Awards. Their performance at the ceremony prompted 6 Music DJ Cerys Matthews to invite them to perform two original compositions in the production Our Country’s Good at The National Theatre. The Financial Times review of the play said “Josienne Clarke sings like a haunted angel.”
Both Josienne and Ben are trained in classical music, bringing an elegance and rigour to their live performance – and often lush chamber ensemble orchestrations on their record-ings, as on their new release, Overnight – an album of wonder and depth.
“A sublime and important act” Geoff Travis, Rough Trade founder
This event is part of Manchester Folk Festival – a celebration of English folk in all its forms, from indie to traditional, familiar names alongside exciting new voices. From 19-22 October in and around HOME, the whole festival takes place in one area of Manchester over one weekend. The Festival presents an incredible music line-up, as well as craft workshops, film, a proper pub singaround, artists in conversation and a relaxed Festival Hub where you can watch the world go by. Friendly, inclusive and full of opportunities for discovery, it will have the spirit of a festival in a field, in the heart of the city.