Josienne Clark & Ben Walker-Fire & Fortune/Lucy Ward-Single Flame. Navigator Records

Time for a little chill out with a pair of albums that can be filed for the most part under the folk tag and which feature young proponents of traditional music who are following in the recent footsteps of the likes of Eliza Carthy and Seth Lakeman as they in turn drew from the seventies folk resurgence.
Fire & Fortune from Josienne Clark and Ben Walker is a beautiful album. Clark has a wonderful voice which at times is reminiscent of Jacqui McShee of Pentangle fame while Walker plays an inspired guitar. His arrangements are spare with just the right amount of decoration each song deserves and they are well served by some fine players including Jim Moray, piano, John Parker, double bass, Jo Silverston, cello, Basia Bartz, violin, Ivan Mendolia, drums and Ruairi Glasheen on Bodhran.
Of the twelve songs five are covers with the remainder penned by the duo and it’s testament to their writing skills that their own songs stand up as well as the more familiar traditional ones. These include a tender reading of My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose and a spare rendition of When a Knight Won His Spurs. The opening song After Me immediately strikes the listener as something special as the strings strike a wintery feeling and Clark’s glacial voice rings out. The chill remains on the haunting The Month of January where Clark’s voice appears from a fog of loneliness provided by wind instruments and tenebrous cello. Another Perfect Love has a lazy, almost jazz lounge swing to it and recalls Sandy Denny’s solo work. Almost all of the songs are done to perfection and the album is well recommended.

Lucy Ward , another rising star in the folk world is another fine singer and interpreter of old songs while well able to write new additions to the canon. Her voice is earthier, more sultry than Clark’s and she tends more towards the New World in her traditional choices. She has a more dramatic approach with several of the songs and in the opening song she lays bare where her roots lie as she name checks Dylan and Melanie and pays tribute to the sixties generation. Indeed there are moments here when one can glimpse the likes of Joni Mitchell, Dory Previn and Ms. Safka but it might be a fair bet to say that she also has a soft spot for Tim Buckley’s ethereal wanderings especially when listening to her song Icarus. Her songs are described as symphonic however over the course of a listen we might venture to say cluttered with over fussy arrangements. The relatively pared back banjo plucking of the traditional Lord I Don’t Want To Die In The Storm benefits from its sparseness. She does have a stand out song in Honey where the simple guitar accompaniment and her voice merge together to create a comfortable shimmering haze.

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