July 8th 2013 Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo released 4th LP Dear River and to make the occasion the band played an intimate instore at Rough Trade East. I had heard the record before hand and instantly fell in love with it. In fact I cant believe I left it so long. You don’t realise how much you miss someone until you have left it a period of time until you next see them. In this case the last time I saw Emily Barker was on The Camden Crawl in 2010. They were 2nd to play on the night and if I am correct Two Wounded Birds played before them. Since then a lot has chance for starters there is a drummer Nat Butler and now Jo Silverston (who plays cello) now also plays the bass.
The Red Clay Halo who have played with Emily since the Despite The Snow LP back in 2008 consist of Jo Silverston, Gill Sandell and Anna Jenkins.
“Good evening everyone. How you doing? Thank you for coming along” Barker said when herself and the rest of The Red Clay Halo were on the small stage. The song that opened up this set was Ghost Narrative. I liked this tune because it was smooth/ laid back plus Barker played the harmonica as well as her acoustic guitar at the same time. Its lyrics were actually rather upbeat and infectious “We walked this land together, tearing our hearts out/ We’ll walk this land together, ’til the truth it is out”. This number is one of my favourite numbers from the new album. “We’re Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo and we just released our 4th record on Monday. We’re going to play songs from the new record and the album’s called Dear River” Emily said before they all launched into Tuesday. Now this was a big band number plus it was rather pacey. As well as acoustic guitar, you also had the combination of cello, viola, accordion and drums. Tuesday was an epic sounding song which was delivered to perfection. This had superbly written and the lyrics completely captivate you. “So the new album Dear River is all about home. I’m from a little country town in Western Australia called Bridgetown. Home is much more than a place to me it’s also made up of the people that we know and the stories that we inherit from those people. And this next song is a story I inherited from my Grandfather who was Dutch. It depicts his time during World War 2 when he lived in exile with his brother and he hid out in old farmhouses and in the woods along the German and Dutch border. I managed to piece together this story through a series of letters and a journal hence the title” Barker said before they got stuck into Letters. This was both soft and mellowing. I actually found it slightly emotional as the lyrics made you easily picture an image of what was happening in the song. Also the lyrics were straight to the point and gave you a crystal clear image of what Barker’s Grandfather and brother went through.
“We hid in the farms/ And factories empty/ We could only dream/ Of leaving”
“We fled towns on fire/ With stomachs empty/ Crossed borderlines/ Swam the rivers dry”
It was then onto the title track of the new LP and this being Dear River. This tune was extraordinary. It was a mid tempo big band number with lyrics which reel you in and leave you entranced. Dear River was in fact a toe tapping number which was delivered to perfection and also the harmonising by the rest of The Red Clay Halo was simply sublime. “How you guys doing out there?” Emily said before introducing Nat Butler on the drums. It was then onto Spadeful Of Ground. I really enjoyed this tune it was rather uplifting and the lyrics were brilliant. This is definitely a song you will fall in love with straight. There was a little technical hitch with the microphone during the song but Barker and the rest of the band carried on regardless and spectacularly sang this song faultlessly. Before getting stuck into Everywhen Emily Barker introduced The Red Clay Halo. Again this is one of my many favourite songs from Dear River. For starters it is more upbeat and secondly it was delivered at a blistering pace. The contagious lyrics worked wonders as well. Everywhen is most definitely a song which will get you moving. The tremendous set ended with The Blackwood. Just like when I heard this on CD the live performance made my spine tingle. The very start of this track Emily delivers it as an a capella then the rest of the band came in. The opening part showed off Emily’s sweet vocals. I can only imagine how amazing it would be if she sang it un aided (no microphone and just her powerful voice). This closing tune is actually named after the river near where Barker grew up. An unplanned encore of Disappear which features on the 2nd LP Despite The Snow ended a what had been a marvellous set.
Spadeful Of Ground
OVERALL: Emily may be at the forefront but credit must go to Anna, Gill and Jo. The harmonising is spot on and the vocals also compliment Emily’s. Also the combination of the instruments which they use during each track works wonders as well. It was also nice to see Jo play the bass after I have always seen her play the cello. The addition of Nat also worked well.
My evening at Rough Trade was enjoyable and I witnessed folk music that I adore. Each song sounded phenomenal live and it makes me look forward to the actual tour which commences in October. Straight after the final tune of the evening Emily, Anna, Gill and Jo went behind the merchandise desk and met fans/ signed which was nice.
What I have learnt is not to leave it that long to see one particular band. I definitely will be seeing them in October.