Artist: Ben Walker
Release Date: 5th July 2019
Genre: Folk, Singer-songwriter
Record Label: Folkroom Records
Ben Walker was recently hailed as one of the best acoustic guitarists in the world right now by Total Guitar magazine. A versatile composer as well as a celebrated instrumentalist, his passion is putting old jewels in new settings. After six critically acclaimed albums and a BBC Folk Award as a duo with Josienne Clarke and more than fifty records as a producer of other artists, Ben Walker's signature style has been sought out from punk to Proms, from Rough Trade to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
If you’re after more of his virtuosity on six strings, there’s ample evidence, but Echo is also a gentle reminder of why, with Ben Walker, ‘guitarist’ can never quite say it all.
In divided times, Echo reflects centuries-old words back to us for today, reimagined in new music. Drawing on field recordings from the EFDSS library, the newly established Sussex Tradition archive and lyrics from the 18th and 19th centuries, with composition influenced by contemporary classical and electronic music and Ben’s trademark fingerstyle, Echo combines original instrumental pieces, traditional songs and poems set to music.
The album features an enviable list of guest vocalists, with Kitty Macfarlane, Laura Hockenhull, fellow Folk Award winners Bella Hardy and Hazel Askew and rising stars Thom Ashworth, Laura Ward (Hickory Signals/Bird in the Belly) and JinnWoo (Bird in the Belly) lending their voices to the project.
As Ben says: ‘Making this album has felt a bit like a treasure hunt – finding lost pieces in Cecil Sharp House, going out with a field recorder to listen properly to where I am, digging back into a place name. The more I looked, the more I found – long-lost ballads and poems written as songs but hardly ever sung. I could hear the echoes of times that felt like ours, when people were having to think again about the national identity, about inequality, and how technology was changing things. People love to hark back to the good old days but the truth is it’s never been simple. Running underneath it all, some of the words we still use for rivers and suchlike are literally thousands of years old.
Sometimes a tune says all that needs to be said, but I felt like these old words held a lot we’d recognise too. It’s been awesome and a bit humbling to have so many amazing artists and friends keen to help me bring this project to life. I can’t thank them enough. Occasionally the only singer for a song is still the old chap who sang it in a pub eighty years ago, but then a young singer picks up something three hundred years old and it hits you like a brick.
There’s a touch of hauntology to it all – the shadows of the past are always there in the future, whether we like it or not. Weirdly, I’ve found a little solace in the fact that some things come and go, and some things stay.’
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