January’s guests at Downend Folk Club may only have formed in the last year or so, but they’re already gaining a reputation as one of the UK’s top live acts.

Recently lauded by BBC 6's Tom Robinson, Devon-based duo TOBIAS BEN JACOB & LUKAS DRINKWATER have been making waves on the folk and acoustic scene of late, and their appearance on the Doric Stage at last year’s Bristol Folk Festival was hailed by many as one of the highlights of the weekend.

Their live show is a dynamic and emotionally-charged affair, ranging from high-crystalline falsetto led tracks like 'We Are The First Ones Now' to more driving riff-driven earthy numbers like 'I Breathe In Life.' Singer –songwriter Tobias’ startling vocal and guitar work being perfectly complemented by Lukas’ masterful upright bass playing and backing vocals.

Inventive and thrilling” - R2: Rock n Reel

Having seemingly crossed paths at many venues and festivals over the years but never actually met, the duo's eventual encounter with one another in an Exeter bar last June set the scene for what has become a compelling and fast evolving musical collaboration. Less than a week after their first rehearsal they would debut the set on stage at Glastonbury Festival! The reaction from the audience sealed their fate and now their masterful, inventive delivery is mesmerizing all who encounter them.

“A fresh and uplifting sound” - Folk Radio UK

Their ‘Burning Low’ EP is out now and has been called a “new-folk masterpiece”.

Opening the evening will be Brighton-based singer-songwriter IAN ROLAND, who will be joined on stage by fiddle-player SIMON YAPP.

Playing 12-string guitar, guitars and mandolin to deliver a sound which is somewhere amongst Roots, Acoustic, Folk, Country, Blues, Rock & Roll, Ian’s latest album ‘How That Dust Jumps’ was released last year to critical acclaim and drew comparisons with the legendary Cat Stevens.

Tickets for the event, which will be held on Friday 15th January at Frenchay Village Hall, are on sale now from Melanie’s Kitchen in Downend, Bristol Ticket Shop or online here. They are priced at just £9 each Early-bird (if bought before Friday 8th January), £10 after that date. Members’ tickets are £8 in advance from the website or direct from Ant Miles only. Doors open at 7.30pm and there will be a bar serving Great Western Brewing Co. real ales, Severn Cider and a range of wine, soft drinks and teas and coffees. There will also be a raffle during the interval.

What a year it’s been for Downend Folk Club.  It was only last December when we were all sitting in these very pews proclaiming the genius of Jim Moray and now we have to do the same for this year’s Christmas guests.  In between we have been royally entertained by troubadours and story tellers, fiddlers and guitarists.  Each and every one a testament to the ideals and ideas of an amazing folk club.

So this year the Christmas entertainments start with EMI McDADE, a friend of the club and the possessor of a fine folk-pop voice.  From wild sweeps of Kate Bush-style drama to big, swoony All About Eve moments McDade proves herself to be a fantastic support artist.  Armed with little more than a keyboard and a high, sweet voice she wins over the packed church and, with a set of only four songs, leave them desperate for more.

The “more”, though, comes in the form of the current BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning Folk Duo of the Year.  JOSIENNE CLARKE & BEN WALKER arrive with a reputation and live up to every plaudit, every cheer and every scrap of applause.

Photo: Julian Cox

With a set culled from two of the loveliest folk albums of recent years, 'Fire And Fortune' and 'Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour', and a veritable sleigh full of Christmas favourites they were simply magnificent.

With an arch line in understatement and laconic wit Josienne Clarke proclaims that they are “a bit melancholic”.  Somehow this tiny morsel of self reviewing is utterly redundant as the pair gently sway through a first half of heartbreak and despair.  Clarke’s classic folk voice (think Sandy Denny or, at times, a smooth edged Grace Slick) and Walker’s beautiful guitar playing waltz and twirl amongst the faithful, wrapping us all in a wintery gauze; a snowy haze.  From the opening, and devastatingly beautiful, 'Silverline' to a glorious cover of Gillian Welsh’s 'Dark Turn of Mind' there was not a single mis-step, not a single false move.  Not even an admission that Clarke hasn’t been well and an apology that she had “dislodged a massive piece of phlegm” could dispel the feeling that we were in the presence of something heavenly.

"In the presence of something heavenly"

The second half was hung with Christmas baubles.  Their version of 'In The Bleak Midwinter' must be the most beautiful rendition of this carol that this building has ever witnessed.  'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' had a Django Reinhardt swing to it; glamorous and restrained, oozing Christmas sultriness.  There were medieval carols sung with reverence and vocal gymnastics – 'I’d like to see Mariah Carey do that one' – and a delicious version of Joni Mitchell’s 'River'.  Add a few not-so-festive covers courtesy of Jackson C Frank, Nina Simone and Sandy Denny and you have the perfect Folky Christmas.  Topped off with the swingeing psycho ballad 'Anyone But Me' and the brand new 'Overnight', this was anything but the “ham-fisted approach to Christmas” that Clarke apologised for.

Ben Walker uttered not a solitary word, Josienne Clarke sipped endlessly from a mug of Lemsip and yet the entire audience adored every moment.

Truly this was the best way to end a wonderful year at the Folk Club.   May there be many, many more.

- Gavin McNamara

The beautiful setting of Christ Church Downend will be perfect for what promises to be a very special show. Wrap up warm, bring the family along, and prepare for a wonderful evening in the company of the multi-award winning duo JOSIENNE CLARKE & BEN WALKER.

Seamlessly blending traditional songs with their own self-written work, singer Josienne and guitarist Ben’s rise to fame has been as quick as it has been deserved. Off the back of four albums and multiple other releases, the duo are capping off a great year with a short seasonal tour.

If you’re not sure, maybe the fact that they won the Best Duo category at the 2015 BBC Folk Awards will convince you. We can't wait to see them at Downend, where they’ll bring their warmth, vitality and amazing musicianship to another crowd of dedicated music lovers.

“A truly polished and elegant album ensuring that a hush falls over an attentive and absorbed audience... A triumph of an album” - Bright Young Folk

Blending “classically instilled traditional songs with self-penned lovelorn ballads”, Josienne and Ben’s sound is as diverse as their influences, which range from Sandy Denny and June Tabor to Nic Jones and Pierre Bensusan. Their recordings are often set to string-filled, orchestral backdrops, but what’ll catch the ear is Josienne’s emotional vocals and Ben’s amazingly expressive guitar. Mix this with their wickedly self-deprecating humour, needed to counterbalance the sad and poetic lyrics as well as the death and despair of their traditional repertoire, and you’re in for quite a night.

“The green shoots growing from the very top of the English folk family tree” - M-Magazine

Their career has grown from Josienne’s solo roots, through their first two albums ‘One Light Is Gone’ and ‘The Seas Are Deep’. Their profile was raised through much hard work, resulting in the critically acclaimed ‘Fire & Fortune’ of 2013. This year’s ‘Nothing Can Bring Back The Hour’ looks set to catapult them further into the musical stratosphere.

Opening the evening will be Gloucester-based folk-pop singer-songwriter and friend of the club EMI McDADE.

Back in June 2014, Emi was our first ever support act when she opened for Gren Bartley at Frenchay Village Hall, and it’s a pleasure to welcome her back 18 months on.

Since beginning her musical career in 2013, 18 year old Emi McDade's music has taken her travelling throughout the UK. After being voted Gloucestershire Solo Artist of the Year 2014, the young folk/pop singer-songwriter has performed on stages such as BBC Introducing, Guildhall, The Bedford and many others, headlining the Acoustic Stage of Dot to Dot Festival, as well as supporting artists such as JP Cooper, Fiona Bevan, Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Kal Lavelle, and most recently, Toyah Willcox.

With her recent single 'Faith', Emi has received extensive radio play throughout the UK, Australia and America (as well as regular play on BBC and BBC Introducing), and became a finalist in 2015 Song Academy Young Songwriter of the Year. Her new single, 'Illusions', has just been released and you can buy it on iTunes here.

The event will be held at Christ Church Downend on Friday 18th December 2015. Doors open at 7.30pm and there will be a full bar serving GWB real ale, cider, wine and a range of soft drinks, for which we encourage you to bring your own glass.

Tickets are priced at £10 in advance and £12 on the door, and are available from Melanie’s Kitchen, Bristol Ticket Shop or online here. They’re already selling fast, so we recommend that you don’t hang about!