Emily Barker And The Red Clay Halo: Dear River – album review

Emily Barker And The Red Clay Halo

Dear River

CD / 2CD / Download

Linn Records

Out 8th July (vinyl version out October)

Dear River is Emily Barker’s fourth album and the third she’s released with her band The Red Clay Halo.  It’s the follow-up to 2011’s critically-acclaimed Almanac, which saw her rise to prominence on the alt-folk scene and sell out prestigious venues such as Islington’s Union Chapel and also go out on tour with Frank Turner with whom they performed at the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

This album demonstrates a progression in the band’s sound. Immediately in the opening lines of the title track opener, it sounds a far more confident, polished record and not afraid to alienate some of that folk following they’d gathered by sounding like a joyous pop record in parts without ever fully turning its back on their previous records and their roots.

It’s a beautifully crafted record with Emily’s crisp, distinct vocals taking centre stage, but without downplaying the musical contributions from Jo (cello), Gill (accordion and piano) and Anna (violin and viola) and their backing vocals and harmonies.  There’s no unnecessary flourishes, no overblown solos and it feels like every note played has a purpose.

As an accompaniment to the album, and we haven’t heard that version, there is also an acoustic version of it as part of a limited 2cd package, which will give pointers as to how the songs were created.

The theme running through the album, right from the title, is home and questioning where that home is.  The album starts with “Dear River, won’t you take me out of here” and concludes on The Blackwood, named after the river close to where she grew up in Western Australia, with “I hope I know which way to go when it’s time for me to head home, I hope I do not miss the turning.”



It uses the river and water as a metaphor in a number of the songs, talking of “we crossed the river and kept on till our past had become a place our eyes could not longer hold on to” on The Leaving and “come and confront our history” on Everywhen as the album progresses.

The beauty of Emily’s lyrics are that they refer to her European ancestry, up-bringing in Australia and her move to the UK, yet they are relevant to anyone who has that lingering question of where home really is.

Every word on the record feels like it’s coming from her heart though and feels intensely personal, which is no mean trick for any artist to pull off.  There’s some truly astonishing records coming out of the folk scene at the moment, which are in stark contrast to the bland fodder that passes as it to the Glastonbury masses.  Dear River is at the very top of that pile.

Dear River is out on July 8th on standard CD, limited edition CD with bonus acoustic CD, heavyweight vinyl and special edition bundle, all of which can be ordered here.  The title track is available as a download only single now.

The band have just announced a major UK tour for the Autumn as well as festival appearances and an in-store tour over the summer.  They are scheduled to play :

8th July – Rise Records, Bristol (5pm)

9th July – Rise Records, Worcester (2pm)

9th July – Rise Records, Cheltenham (5pm)

10th July – Truck Records, Oxford (5pm)

11th July – Rough Trade East, London (7pm)

12th July – Two Thousand Trees, Gloucestershire

13th July – Old Cinema Laundrette, Durham

14th July – Sound It Out, Stockton (3pm)

15th July – Sheffield Record Collector (5pm)

16th July – Jumbo Records, Leeds (1pm)

17th July – Banquet Records, Kingston (6pm)

18th July – Sound Knowledge, Marlborough (6pm)

19th July – The Last Shop Standing, Plymouth (7pm)

20th July – Drift Records, Totnes (6pm)

22nd July – Spillers Records, Cardiff (5.30pm)

23rd July – Music’s Not Dead, Bexhill (6pm)

24th July – Union Music Store, Lewes (3pm)

24th July – Pie And Vinyl, Southsea (6pm)

25th July – David’s Records, Letchworth (7.30pm)

26th July – Folk Festival, Cambridge

29th July – Badlands, Cheltenham (4pm)

31st July – Trading Post, Stroud (6pm)

9th August – Wilderness, Oxfordshire

10th October – The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

11th October – The Arch Inn, Ullapool

12th October – Ironworks, Inverness

13th October – Oran Mor, Glasgow

15th October – Komedia, Brighton

16th October – Shepherds Bush Empire, London

17th October – Blackfriars Priory, Gloucester

18th October – The Globe, Cardiff

20th October – The Musician, Leicester

21st October – Artrix, Bromsgrove

22nd October – St John’s Church, Oxford

23rd October – The Apex, Bury St Edmunds

25th October – Open, Norwich

26th October – Folk Festival, North Dorset

7th November – St Philips Church, Salford

8th November – Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

9th November – Cluny 2, Newcastle

10th November – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

11th November – Junction 2, Cambridge

13th November – Discovery Centre, Winchester

14th November – Phoenix, Exeter

15th November – Plaza Suite, Sevenoaks

16th November – St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings

17th November – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

19th November – Glee Club, Birmingham

20th November – Greystones, Sheffield

21st November – Floral Pavilion, New Brighton

22nd November – Folk House, Bristol

Emily Barker And The Red Clay Halo’s website can be found here.  They are also on Facebook here and Emily is on Twitter here.  She also told us more about the album and its history here.

All words by David Brown. You can see more of David’s work on Louder Than War here 

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Having cut his teeth writing for Louder Than War, Dave set up his own blog Even The Stars and continues to make occasional contributions to Louder Than War. He also run Tim Booth from James' official website as well as the James fansite One Of The Three.


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