It’s been a good year for Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker. Following on from their 2011 sophomore album Seas Are Deep, the duo found themselves in Bristol, picking up the Isambard Folk Award. It’s an interesting development then that, after two albums that each slot neatly into the ‘traditional folk’ genre, their newest EP finds itself so clearly influenced by American folk and country.
Homemade Heartache opens with the deceptively bright ‘Just Travelling’ – a song that flicks and flutters about with Walker’s sprightly instrumentation. As Clarke’s lyrics draw to a close, the music erupts again in a brief folk flirtation. It’s perhaps at odds with the rest of the EP, a moment of unashamed musical fun. A half-minute hoedown.
Elsewhere, Clarke sings of sadness and loneliness honestly, and without saccharine sentiment. ‘Forever and More’ tells of her attempts to win hearts by writing just these sorts of songs, and hints that such a plan can never succeed – listening to the sincerity in her voice, it’s hard to imagine that being the case.
The EP’s highlight comes by way of the title track. A sort of English country ballad, Clarke’s lyrics seem so often to be borne out of a mistrust of her own heart and will – here she sings of romantic self-sabotage. Her trick, though, is to never come across as self-pitying. Not once through the EP do you feel anything less than a complete and utter understanding of Josienne Clarke. Her experiences, like so many in country and folk, are not unique to her and as such, like all the best folk writers, she uses those experiences and ends up singing not only to the listener, but also about them.
Words: Stephen Thomas