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Albums of the Year 2019: Josienne Clarke – In All Weather | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2019: Josienne Clarke – In All Weather

Albums of the Year 2019: Josienne Clarke – In All Weather

A perfect companion for the longer, darker nights of your year

Josienne Clarke: 'searing emotional intelligence'

As one half of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winning duo with Ben Walker, Josienne Clarke released four superb albums, including 2014’s Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour and their finale, 2018’s Seedlings All. There’s an absolute clarity to her voice, as if it's some lucid if troubled body of water through which you can see to the depths, and the powerful forces unfolding down there. Depth and clarity, melancholy and introspection are the axes on which her artistry turns. It's fuelled by a searing emotional intelligence that doesn’t spare herself, let alone any others depicted in these 13 compact, intense emotional dramas – “life songs”, she calls them – compressed into just 32 minutes. They’re a perfect companion for the longer, darker nights of your year.

Much of the album was previewed at The Green Note in August, with Clarke accompanying herself on guitar. Such is the strength and compelling nature of In All Weather, your focus is less on her previous work as a duo but on the absorbingly complex songs of knowledge and experience that unfold across this quietly devastating set, on which she’s supported by a band including Mary Ann Kennedy on harp, the electric guitar, bass and programming of co-producer Sonny Jenkins, keyboardist Elliott Galvin, and drummer Dave Hamblett.

There are subtle musical contrasts at play, from the lean band sound of the opening title track through the minimalist electro-acoustic charm of “Seconds”, the hazy electric guitar and synths of “If I Didn’t Mind”, and the spare, devastating “Host”. The latter's brilliant lyric spins out a web of emotional truths and insights that are as spectral and strong as spider’s silk, and all concentrated into just 90 seconds of music. The infectious guitar pop of “Slender, Sad & Sentimental”, with its yearning for “poise, poetry and pride”, lends a more musically joyous note to the album; the bass-driven “Season & Time” is self-reflective on her own artistry and sources of song, and the closing "Onliness" feels like a summation and leave-taking, featuring a low, languid sax intro, a gentle amplified guitar line, and Clarke musically bowing out of her own picture. Altogether, this is a remarkable work of distillation, exorcism and renewal, a stepping-up to confirm Clarke as among our finest songwriters producing one of the most quietly devastating albums of the year.

Two More Essential Albums from 2019:

Jim Moray – The Outlander

Abdesselam Damoussi & Nour Eddine – Jebda: Spiritual Music from Morocco

Gig of the Year

Jambinai, Purcell Room, Southbank

Track of the Year

The Gloaming – “Dr O’Neill”

@CummingTim

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