David & Clare Rozzell

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Photograph of David Rozzell wearing a OOO-18 acoustic guitar, stood next to Clare Rozzell with a double bass, on stage at The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth.

Husband and wife, David and Clare Rozzell, have been blending British and Transatlantic folk into a sound of their own for more than 20 years, now they are delving deeper into their English folk roots than ever before. For 18 years they have been two thirds of the highly acclaimed bluegrass/folk trio Wood, Wire & Words, performing across the UK and Europe and have performed in many diverse venues including Ely Cathedral and Shrewsbury Folk Festival. For 2 years, up until August 2022, they broadcast The Folkgrass Lockdown Sessions from their home on the South Coast every Friday night, bringing people together from around the world with their songs, instruments and beautiful harmonies. Now they are back performing in the real world again and bringing a whole new selection of folk songs to audiences old and new.

Clare Rozzell was introduced to the world of bluegrass music at a very tender age by her mum and dad, who dragged her from one muddy field to another, to watch her father, renowned dobro player Pat Francis (Fingers & Co., Grassfire, Blackjack), perform at most of the UK bluegrass festivals.

This annual round of endurance tests, cunningly disguised as ‘camping weekends’ gave Clare a taste for the music and after years of going to the bluegrass festivals and soaking up the many sounds and styles of acoustic picking, she decided to try her hand at the Banjo, inspired by the likes of Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck. At the 1994 Didmarton Bluegrass Festival she splashed-out on a Washburn B-16 5 string banjo, which has since accompanied her to all the festivals, where she takes every opportunity to terrorise the natives and better her playing.

In 1995 she met her future husband David on a college music course, studying and performing Rock, blues, Jazz music and learning the art of using associated technology/studio recording. This course was also her first opportunity to experience real live gigging, with various concerts and events to perform at. Clare's chosen instrument for the course was piano, the instrument she started out on at the tender age of 8 and still enjoys playing now. Through their time at college, David and Clare had found they had a mutual love of rock, folk and all various forms of acoustic music and Clare introduced David to the delights of bluegrass, whilst listening to her Dads various bands rehearsing at home. Building on their love for all things musical, they started working as a duo, performing David’s self penned songs and covers of various artists, many of them from the world of bluegrass, the initial sound created was with David on acoustic guitar and Clare on harmony vocals.

After numerous jam sessions with her dad and David, the opportunity to form a famiy band seemed a natural progression and Wood, Wire and Words joined the live music scene in 2003. Having started out initially playing electric bass for the trio, Clare found an opportunity within the band to develop her love for acoustic music still further and take on yet another instrument, the double bass, much more suited to the sound the band were looking for. Clare rose to the challenge and has become a highly regarded bluegrass bass player and has provided Wood, Wire and Words with a rock steady bass at the helm for the past 18 years. As if that wasn't enough, Clare also sings beautiful lead and harmony vocals.

Following her father's retirement from live gigging, Clare now finds herself in the midst of another musical challenge to immerse herself in, breaking away from her bluegrass roots and exploring more traditional British folk music, sounds and histories as part of this new duo with David. She is embracing this challenge in the same way she does with everything, without hesitation and with complete conviction. During the past two years of performing with David for the Folkgrass Lockdown Sessions, Clare has been able to expand and develop her double bass playing, embracing many new musical styles. Clare has started teaching herself to play the melodeon, to add a new sound into the mix and is taking on a much more prominent role with lead vocals than ever before.

David Rozzell started his musical journey at an early age, singing along to the radio and to his parents record collection. At the age of about 9 he saved up his pocket money and bought his first guitar, the cheapest acoustic he could find. From that moment on he was hooked, and spent every spare moment singing with his guitar and writing songs, much to the annoyance of his 2 older brothers.

There was a brief spell as a bass guitarist and drummer whilst at school, but the bands didn't last very long. Neither did his Cornet playing and although it was something he would like to have kept up, the cost of the instrument was too much. It wasn't until David went to college in 1989 to study acting, that he once again picked up the guitar and started singing in earnest again. When he wasn't at college he was busking or playing gigs, anything for the chance to play music, even picking up the bass once again.

Over the following years he played regularly in pubs, at private functions and as a guest with other local bands. He was asked to join several, but declined after finding they didn't share his commitment to music. So he stuck with solo music and the occasional guest appearance. It was during this time he learned several very valuable lessons, one of which was: "Never play a gig in-front of a dart board." He was once asked to sing on a Dance record by a German record label, but he declined because he wasn't keen on the manufactured music they were churning out at breakneck speed and being an idealistic 20-something, didn't believe it had the musical integrity he desired. "I didn't think of the money!"

In 1994 David had a life-changing motorcycle accident, which robbed him of swathes of long-term memory and his short-term memory ability and left him with long term chronic pain. It also stopped him playing guitar, until he met a physiotherapist determined to help him regain that part of his life. It took months of hard work, but gradually he was able to hold a guitar again and re-program his brain to play music once more. 28 years later and he has, mostly, learnt to live with the chronic pain, after years of work has regained some, but sadly not all of his short-term memory ability and some of the blank spaces in his long-term memory are no longer blank. This part of his life has in many ways shaped the style of his playing and the songs that he writes, particulaly songs like 'The Words You Can't Find'.

In 1995, more than a year after his accident, he was gently persuaded by a close friend to go back to college and to study music. It was on that music course where he met his future wife Clare. Being the daughter of a well respected Bluegrass musician and a banjo player herself, she introduced David to the world of Bluegrass music. This opened up a whole new catalogue of songs and new styles of playing and writing.

This friendship and subsequent marriage, lead to the formation of the critically acclaimed, contemporary folk/bluegrass band Wood, Wire And Words, with his wife Clare and her father, the brilliant instrumentalist Pat Francis. Wood, Wire and Words worked as a band for 18 years until Pat decided it was time to finally hang up his gigging hat. During that time they played festivals, folk clubs, venues, pubs and many other gigs around the UK and across Europe, big and small. Their 3 albums (Riding The Rails - 2008, It's A Barbecue Day - 2015, The Boy With The Smile - 2019), for which David wrote all the songs, were very well received, with fabulous reviews and airplay on radio stations and podcasts around the world and among many different genres. Locally they were known as "Portsmouth's first family of bluegrass", thanks to Express FM D.J Dan Ogus.

So now a new chapter begins for this highly regarded songwriter, as David writes songs for the duo that are much deeper rooted in folk music from the British Isles, in both sound and feeling and he finds himself coming full circle, back to the folk roots he started with well over 40 years ago.

Photograph of David Rozzell wearing a OOO-18 acoustic guitar, stood next to Clare Rozzell leaning on a double bass.
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