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Seedlings All
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  • Personnel: Ben Walker (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, ukulele, Moog synthesizer, drum machine, programming); Josienne Clarke (vocals, flute, tenor recorder, clarinet, saxophone); Anna Jenkins, Emily Hall (violin, viola); Basia Bartz (violin); Jo Silverston, Amy Squirrel, Maya McCourt (cello); Kit Downes (piano, harmonium); Andy Cutting (melodeon); Ruth Goller (double bass, electric bass); James Maddren (drums); Samantha Whates (background vocals).
  • Audio Mixer: Ben Walker.
  • Recording information: Ben's Room; Eastcote Studios.
  • Arranger: Ben Walker.
  • Delicate, achingly wistful, and deeply introspective, Seedlings All is the fourth full-length outing from acclaimed U.K. folk duo Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker. While in some respects a tonal sibling to 2016's Overnight, Seedlings All is notable for being the first of their releases to consist entirely of Clarke originals, making it seem more deliberate and focused than previous releases. Her intense vulnerability as both a writer and singer is such a presence here it almost feels disconcerting, but the bravery of her confessional style is also one of Clarke's strongest assets. Gently delivered, but charged with emotion, the album leads with "Chicago," a tuneful folk-pop gem which tries to reconcile the shame and frustration of an American tour date that failed to attract even a single fan. From the beginning, the bittersweet tone is set as the duo shifts between different shades of blue from the pastoral melancholia of the title cut to the autumnal jazz-folk of "Sad Day." The arrangements are beautifully nuanced with strings, horns, woodwinds, and even handbells dancing in and out of the picture, always in service of the song. For his part, Walker remains a well-suited foil to Clarke's graceful brush, painting the canvas with tasteful leads and subtle accompaniment. Acutely personal -- almost to the point of discomfort -- and exceedingly fragile, Seedlings All somehow manages to remain resilient, which is a tough balance to pull off. ~ Timothy Monger
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