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Every once in a while a work of art emerges which commands public attention, exceeding those already in existence, surpassing genres and boundaries. Oscar Wilde once stated: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Sit up, and take notice of a portrait by an artist with so much lucent passion and inimitable talent it’s sure to outshine all others.
Q: "Josephine is an extraordinary talent"
The Mirror: "Musically abundant, her bespoke jazz and folky character pop embraces infectious grooves and tremulous social concern"
Manchester’s soulful chanteuse, Josephine, has created a self-reflective debut album which illustrates the many different sides of a fascinating character. Vocally, her prowess recalls ‘the Queen of gospel’, Mahalia Jackson’s distinctive contralto, yet behind the powerful delivery is a husky undercurrent making every replaying seem like a personal performance. This compelling delivery commands attention completely, on a record replete with a vibrant array of musical genres. Whether accompanied by Ed Harcourt on stripped-back piano melody House Of Mirrors, or playing a fast-paced bossa-nova infused jaunt via Pepper Shaker, she’s equally awe-inspiring.
Such an effervescent record is no surprise given Josephine’s upbringing. Born to a Liberian mother and Jamaican father who came to the UK before her birth, she’s enjoyed the advantages of a colourful West African culture as well as feeling intrinsically British. Born in the Manchester suburb of Hulme before soon moving to nearby Cheetham Hill, she soaked up the musical heritage of the city and that of the household, like a sponge. “I always knew I’d be musical,” she admits. “In the house I’d hear lots of old records, such as Fela Kuti, and King Sunny Ade were played by my mum quite a lot. She’s got really great music from all over the world.”
Her mother proved to be the catalyst for a future career in music, buying the twelve year old Josephine a guitar – clearly on the right path; the first gig was just three years later upon finishing high-school. During College the precocious performer developed further by avidly listening to Sister Rosetta Tharpe Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Marley. These early influences really impacted heavily and seeped into the song-writing. “I learned a lot from their story-telling techniques and the more complex rhythmical style they used,” she remembers. “Reggae taught me to feel the music and that writing a song could be different to the way I imagined before.”
Her tenacity and drive saw things build quickly during the nascent beginning. ”When I was writing some of my first songs I was literally waking up, going to work, then to a gig, and getting back at midnight only to do it all again in the morning.” It was this obsessive impulse to make music which soon saw her support big names including Jimmy Cliff while still in her teens. Last year she shared stages with both Scottish success story Paolo Nutini and BBC Sound Of 2012 winner, Michael Kiwanuka. Now however she’s the one destined to step into the limelight.
Portrait sees Josephine’s hard work pay off in abundance. Her transcendent voice has been captured sumptuously with the help of Leo Abrahams (one-time Brian Eno’s guitarist, and producer to Grace Jones and Nick Cave) and Jimmy Hogarth (Amy Winehouse, Estelle, Suzanne Vega) plus a host of renowned musicians including Polar Bear’s drummer Seb Rochford, and the aforementioned Mercury Prize nominee Ed Harcourt.