This is the kind of album that however hectic, frustrating or soul-destroying your day might be, one can put on and be immediately transported to somewhere else entirely. Josienne Walker and Ben Clarke have genuinely created something quite beautiful with this album. Rich orchestration, intricate guitar-work and lush multi-layered vocals combine to make this, the duo’s fourth album, their most ambitious to date.
The title is a line from William Wordsworth and provides the overall theme for the album, an acceptance that some things in any person’s life will always remain incomplete and undone. This inspires some beautiful song-writing from Clarke, such as A Simple Refrain and Now You Know, not to mention the wonderfully melancholic I Never Learned French which, in spite of its title, captures perfectly the spirit of France.
The three traditional songs on the album also blend in nicely alongside the original compositions. They do a lovely version of I Wonder What is Keeping My True Love Tonight and a beautifully Elizabethan-flavoured version of The Queen of Hearts, the latter being one of the highlights of the whole album.
The musicianship is superb and it may be a surprise to learn that both Clarke and Walker are not classically trained. "We didn’t go to a conservatoire,” explains Clarke. “We had a standard comprehensive school education so we began without knowing all the rules. To make this record we’ve had to rigorously hone our craft and figure this out for ourselves.” Indeed, whatever “the rules” are this is very clear evidence that they have certainly learnt them now.
The lush textures of sound shine throughout. The beauty of Clarke’s crisp, clear voice and Walker’s warm engaging guitar playing is supported by a stellar line-up of guest musicians, including Jim Moray on piano, Basia Bartz on violin and Samantha Whates and Sam Brookes on backing vocals.
An ambitious album that does not disappoint, Walker and Clarke have definitely achieved a thing of elegance and beauty with Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour.Darren Johnson
Released on Folkroom Records 13th October 2014
2. A Simple Refrain
3. It Would Not Be a Rose
4. I Wonder What is Keeping My True Love Tonight
5. The Tangled Tree
6. I Never Learned French
7. Moving Speeches
9. The Queen of Hearts
10. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
11. Now You Know
12. Earth and Ash and Dust