ACOUSTIC folk roots duo Chris While and Julie Matthews are marking their 20th anniversary by recording their ninth studio album, Who We Are, on the FatCat label.

The record comprises 11 new contemporary British folk, Americana and country songs by singer-songwriters Chris and Julie that range from heartfelt observations of human frailty to uplifting celebrations of the enduring human spirit, and its autumn release will be supported by a 19-date tour.

The penultimate show will be at the National Centre for Early Music in York on November 2 at 7.30pm, promoted in association with the Black Swan Folk Club and Circuit Music in York. Tickets are on sale at £15, concessions £13, on 01904 658338 or at

The album opens with a Matthews composition, If This Were Your Last Day, an optimistic, energetic song that asks what you would do if this were indeed your last day, while White Feather, written by Matthews for BBC Radio 2’s forthcoming series The Ballads Of The Great War, is a powerful reflection of the white feather movement in the First World War.

While's song Drop Hammer celebrates the women of Sheffield who kept the steel industry running during both world wars and the recording is embellished by a rich chorus of Yorkshire "factory girls": fellow folkies Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow, Kellie While, Kit Bailey and Mel Ledgard. On Dancing Under The Gallows, Matthews pays tribute to Alice Hertz Sommer, the oldest survivor of the Holocaust, who died earlier this year at the age of 111.

Chris While and Julie Matthews’ musical partnership began in 1994 as members of the folk super-group The Albion Band.

In 1997, they left to concentrate on their work as a duo, touring and recording nine studio and two live albums.

Their songs have been covered by Mary Black, Barbara Dickson, Christine Collister and Fairport Convention.

The close-harmony singers are both multi-instrumentalists: Julie plays guitar, piano, ukulele, bouzouki, mandolin, harmonica and accordion; Chris, guitar, bodhran, banjo, dulcimer and percussion.

Both have released solo records too and are in their 13th year as members of St Agnes Fountain with David Hughes and Fairport Convention’s Chris Leslie, performing a Christmas tour each year.

Julie was a key writer for the Sony Award-winning Radio Ballads, made for BBC Radio 2 in 2006 and 2012, and is now writing for the next series, The Ballads Of The Great War, which will tell the story of the First World War through the words of the people who were there and songs based on their experiences.

Last year, Chris was invited by Beth Nielsen Chapman to be a part of an all-star singer-songwriter concert at her house in Nashville alongside Gretchen Peters, Kim Carnes and Kim Richey and many more. The concert was filmed for a BBC Four documentary, to be presented by Bob Harris in the BBC’s Nashville season in November.