Album Review: Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker – Seedlings All

“It’s not Chicago’s fault, that no one came to see me play,” Josienne Clarke sings as the soulful strum of Ben Walker’s guitar kicks in. In hindsight though, I say thank you Chicago as although it would have been painful to cross the Atlantic to a play a show that no one came to, it makes for a great statement on a record that includes ‘Clarke’s most autobiographical work’.

Clarke and Walker have successfully made their mark on the folk world, with several nods from the BBC Folk Awards and four million streams of their previous release OvernightThe folk is still present on Seedlings All, but with Walker’s fine instrumental workmanship, elements of jazz begin to creep in, most notably on Bells Ring and Tender Heart. The last minute of Bells Ring is instrumental bliss and Clarke’s almost heavenly vocals sing “it’s just your tender heart pumping the blood around my body,” – well you can actually feel that! That is the draw of Clarke and Walker – his delicate musical arrangements, especially his signature guitar playing, complimenting her unique and somewhat haunting vocals and words. You do wonder how Chicago’s no-show came to happen with this wonderful pairing of two finely talented people.

The folk elements are still strong in this offering, with All Is Myth telling us to go out and do things we want, even if we sometimes fail on the way. Clarke tells us that she “feel(s) until my heart aches,” which many of us can relate to as we ‘chase our dreams.’ Then there’s the heartfelt take on motherhood with Maybe I Won’t, and the dreamlike feel of Bathed In Light. However, it is Things Of No Use that brings everything on this album together – it’s a folkish explosion in its own right and one of the reasons why those accolades are there for Clarke and Walker.

It is unknown to me and those familiar with this pairing why crowds are small or non-existent, but autobiographical or not, Clarke’s words hit the core of our heart and with Walker’s added musical magic, this duo have a touch more life and it is nothing short on that with Seedlings All.

Victoria Ling