A day or so after going to see Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker at The Cookie in Leicester, I came across Robert Macfarlane’s word of the day on Twitter: “saudade’.
Word of the day: “saudade” – a feeling of melancholic longing for an irretrievable or unreachable place, person or sensation (Portuguese). “A pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy” (Manuel de Melo).
Kindred with but not identical to hiraeth (Welsh), Sehnsucht (German), etc. pic.twitter.com/7h7e4g4QhM
— Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) April 6, 2018
Perfect I thought. Suits this gig down to the ground….
A few decades ago I used to go to jazz clubs where I was usually easily the youngest person in the room. Going off to see Josienne and Ben on their tour promoting their new album Seedlings All this week I thought that the opposite might be true. How wrong. Most of the audience seemed to be of a similar age group. I am not surprised in one way as Josienne’s songs take a more astute view of life, are naturally melancholic and often reflective. So why am I not surprised? I think that there is a certain sophistication that comes to most of us as we get older, a sophistication in being able to listen to different things and appreciate the beauty within the maudlin. That, or the fact that we are still angst-ridden teenagers at heart.
Listening to their albums, a firm picture of this melancholia is created. Seeing them live adds extra dimensions, particularly to Josienne whose introductions are at times sardonic, at others blunt, and yet at others self-deprecating. Seeing and hearing her takes the person out of the box and puts her in real life.
As for the music, it was an excellent set, a mixture of songs from earlier albums as well as some from Seedlings All. With the addition of the jazz rhythm section – Kit Downes, Ruth Goller and James Maddren – favourites like The Tangled Tree had a new texture yet lost none of their impact.
The night of this Leicester gig was also the night of the BBC 2 Folk Awards which gave rise to comment regarding which box people might put Josienne and Ben in. Promoted as a folk duo, a label not of their asking apparently, they have certainly appealed to the admirers of acoustic music. The addition of a drum machine may have put them out of reach of such awards as were available that night, but this is not going to stop them being appreciated for what they are.
As I thought when hearing their new album, there is a new maturity to them – the melancholia is still there, the introspection and self-reflection survive, but the control has shifted and a new path is being explored.
And saudade? A feeling of longing or melancholia or nostalgia, usually referring to Portuguese or Brazilian songs or poetry. Macfarlane quotes Manuel de Melo “A pleasure you suffer, an ailment you enjoy”. That should appeal to Josienne. It should also appeal to you. Go and enjoy.
Watch their official video for Chicago below
UK Album Order: http://rtrecs.co/SeedlingsAll
Forthcoming Live Dates:
Apr 11th – Komedia, Brighton, UK
May 2nd – Paper Dress Vintage, London, UK
photo credit: Jenna Foxton