Take one Australian lass, transplant her to England, add three English lasses, and you have Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo. My first exposure to the band was through the Wallander series on PBS. The utterly haunting theme music is the song "Nostalgia" from the band's first album Despite the Snow.
Since learning of Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo, I have explored and immersed myself through their entire catalog of music. Their sound and style would be best and loosely described as folk, and there are hints and glimpses of numerous genres including bluegrass, madrigal, etc. Their first three albums are entirely acoustic instrumentation, and Despite the Snow was even recorded in 16th century barn in England!
Dear River is their fourth studio album, and was released in July 2013. With this album, the sounds and atmospheres explored by the band continue to grow, and some electric instrumentation is introduced for the first time. The band ventures into a slightly more modern sound infused with folk, rock and pop influences. The album's thoughtful lyrics follow earthy themes throughout the album, such as a water, land, blood, etc.
The album opens with the title track and a subtle introductory guitar riff with catchy back beats. It is followed by the peppy and string laden "Tuesday," and the slow and retrospective choral "Letters." The toe tapping ballad "The Leaving" leads into the subtle electric guitar of the peppy "Everywhen." The stripped down ballad "Sleeping Horses" introduces the album's folk-rock gem, "The Ghost Narrative." This is followed by country picking sound of "A Spadeful of Ground." The album then treats you to the slow and sweet sounds of "The Cormorant and the Heron" and retrospective "In the Winter I Returned." The album closes with the optimistic folk ballad "The Blackwood."
After being used to the all acoustic instrumentation of the first three albums, I will readily admit that I was initially resistant to the introduction of some minor electric instrumentation upon the first listen. This resistance of mine was utterly foolish and unfounded, as it more than complements the style and atmosphere of the songs, and "The Ghost Narrative" is now among my favorites tracks from the band.
The band also did something very unique with this album, where the listener can get the best of both worlds. They released a "Deluxe Edition" of the album which contains a second CD, called "The Dog House Sessions." It is a version of the entire album recorded on acoustic instruments. Emily is quoted as saying "we wanted to have a record of how the songs sounded in this bare acoustic form, similar to how we recorded Despite The Snow. So earlier this year we went into The Dog House studios near Henley-on-Thames and recorded all eleven songs live in one day."
I pre ordered this ages ago and forgot all about it then it arrived last week,so I fired up my Linn LP12 and listened to this record,I might add it is very well made nice and thick vinyl in a beautiful case and the ladies voice is truly lovely.
This is the 4th and final studio album by Emily Barker and her all female quartet, the Red Clay Halo ,and it is a corker. Emily originally hails from Australia, but has more recently been based in Great Britain, and has become a revered singer/songwriter and performer. Her style is difficult to pin down ,she sits on the edge of Americana, Folk and Country. She is the main composer of original songs, with a strong clear singing voice at the centre of the arrangements, playing guitars and harmonica. The remainder of her regular female band are Anna Jenkins on violin and viola; Gill Sandell on piano, accordion, harmonium and flute and Jo Silverston on cello, with all the girls joining in on backing vocals. On this 4th group album they are augmented by Ted Barnes on guitar and mandolin; Nat Butler on drums and Lewis Gordon on bass .The main album has 11 original new songs, the opener being the title track for the album, and one of my favourite tracks is the quieter more reflective Sleeping Horses. The arrangements are fairly full, but the real gem for me is the complementary stripped down bonus album recorded at the Dog House Studio Sessions with just the female quartet, simply, live, more stripped down acoustic versions . Rather than being a pleasant bonus which might be listened to once then forgotten, this gets to the kernel of these great songs, and is a great compare and contrast with the original full album, and is an essential addition. The running order is identical on both, and the 2 discs of one album make it good value for money, and many including myself prefer the more unplugged version. The group have been garnering critical plaudits, this was their last full album together, and their playing is probably at its performing zenith, and Emily's songwriting has grown in confidence and maturity, and this is a fine set of strong songs with no second rate filler. I have only recently come across Emily, but have found her to be one of the best contemporary singer songwriters around, and the production on her albums is of high quality, linked with the Linn Records who specialise in high end audio equipment. Overall this is a fine album with a strong set of songs performed by a supporting band who are into the groove and embellish Emily's lead singing with lovely arrangements and this comes highly recommended as the highpoint of her recorded output with the Red Clay Halo group.
I think this is quite remarkably good. I hadn't heard Emily Barker before and I've plainly been missing out. This is an album of exceptionally thoughtful, atmospheric and musically fine songs with very good, original lyrics.
It's hard to categorize the style of this album (which is probably a good thing) but it has a sort of Americana feel but to me has a very English sound (Anglicana, perhaps?) - from an Australian artist, of course. The instrumentation of The Red Clay Halo is varied but is basically accordion, cello and viola with variations, and it gives a very distinctive sound which sets off Barker's songs perfectly. Her voice is very haunting and she can really put over a song, and the standard of musicianship throughout is consistently excellent. The production is great and the overall effect is a deeply involving, personal album which I find quite spellbinding.
The Limited Edition of Dear River includes a second version of the album consisting of acoustic demos. Usually I find such bonus material weak at best, but here it makes a terrific album itself. The stripped down versions of these songs, all apparently recorded in one day, are really good and in my view are well worth having.
I warmly recommend this album - I think it's something rather special.
I bought both the CD (for the car) and the vinyl, but only recently got the chance to listen to the vinyl. My hearing is far from perfect, but even I can appreciate the difference; the vinyl really does sound quite special. It even feels superior - more like the older, fatter, harder LPs from the 50s and 60s (just like me!). A great production of a marvellous album from a first rate group of musicians.
Another fantastic album from Emily and the girls. They just go from strength to strength. The addition of the acoustic tracks adds an extra wow factor to this great album. The track Ghost Narrative is my favourite.
The latest release from Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo is just MAGIC!! The band are a fantastic talent! A litle more mature and straight forward than Almanac, with more North American Folk leanings this time around I feel. The bonus disc contains acoustic versions of the album's songs, and provides a more folky, enchanted edge to the collection brining it a little closer to Almanac. I cannot wait to see the band on tour this year, it will be a mesmerising experience This could be a great Decemberists' album... Now Emily Barker and the Decemberists, now that would be a tour to follow!