Album Review: Josienne Clarke, ‘Parenthesis, I’

If ever there was a year for finding yourself, then 2024 should be it. Amidst the cacophony of the modern world, this should be a time for artists to find their creative center, to find a way to quiet the noise, to bring something transcendent to the fore. UK folk singer and songwriter Josienne Clarke’s  new album, Parenthesis, I, is just that: a moment that’s all hers, a vision that belongs to nobody else.

Clarke rose through the ranks of UK ballad singers early in her career before being struck down by the vagaries and difficulties of the music industry. Over the past few years, she’s pulled herself back up, starting her own record label, producing her own albums, playing many of the instruments herself, and swearing to never again subvert her musical vision for others. Parenthesis, I is the personal triumph at the end of this journey, or as she sings in “Spherical,” it’s a return to her inner core of strength. “I’ve been drawing a circle / back to myself / So slowly it looked like a line.”

Songwriting itself is an act of intimacy, the sharing of your inner thoughts and life with crowds. Many songwriters struggle with their most personal songs and Clarke is no different. Take, for example, “Most of All,” which is about a time of deep personal trauma in her life. “Several times I nearly took it off the tracklist,” she says, “but experience has taught me, those ones end up being among my audience’s favourite songs.” One of the most poignant, beautiful songs on the album, this song’s chorus of “My lover loves me most of all, he can write a beautiful love song but he can barely sing at all” leaves a note of bittersweet hope at the end of the unfolding of her tale.

There are words of fury in this album; in “Do You Know Now,” for example, Clarke sings that “no part of me / is a part of you.” In contrast, there are also words of forgiveness scattered throughout the album. In “Forbearing,” it’s clear that Clarke has moved beyond blaming herself for the difficulties she encountered in her early career. “If damaged fruit / Is all I can give you,” she sings, “that’ll have to do.” Further, Clarke recognizes that we’re all asked to tear ourselves apart with blame, occasionally, and she feels there’s power in pushing past that feeling. “Sometimes your continued existence is enough,” she explains, “the bold move, an act of resistance. Going through something difficult and coming out the other side is an achievement in itself.”

It’s perhaps cliché to say that a songwriter like Josienne Clarke wears her heart on her sleeve, but it’s surely an act of love and braveness to share such beautiful moments of hope and triumph from her own life.


 Parenthesis, I is available HERE


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