We've been waiting to post this review for a while, but with rain pouring down on our roof in Seattle and a roaring fire in the hearth, there's no better time for some deep, dark British folk music.
Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker. The Seas are Dead.
It's no secret that British folk traditions laid the groundwork for all the Southern music we've come to love. The old songs that the Appalachian settlers brought with them would form the basis for folk revival after folk revival up to the present day. So there's something deeply inspiring about listening to the music back at its source. Young British folk singer Josienne Clarke has a wonderfully thick British accent, the kind you actually notice while she's singing. Which is funny, because British music is so engrained on our American psyche thanks to their ubiquity in rock and roll that we Americans hardly even register a British singer's accent anymore.
Josienne's a masterful songwriter in her own right, as she proved with her 2010 album, One Light is Gone. But with her new album, The Seas are Dead, she turns to the songbook of British folk ballads for inspiration and delivers an album's worth of stunning renditions of the classic songs. You've never heard "Silver Dagger" like this before. And you'll not soon forget her version of "Lily of the West" either. There's nothing fake or artificial here, no hazy hipster re-envisioning of old Steeleye Span/Fairport Convention influences. She presents the songs as utterly simply as possible, just her gorgeous, rending vocals and the clever, deft acoustic arrangements of her musical compatriot Ben Walker. She's stripped the songs to the bone and given them new flesh purely through the power of her beautiful vocals and her staunch respect for the tradition. This album floored me.
Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker: Silver Dagger
Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker: Hare on the Mountain