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Live: Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo – In-store session at Rough Trade East, London (11 July 2013)

July 13, 2013

Dear RiverCoinciding with the overdue appearance of the legendary British summer, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo served up the aural equivalent of a 99 with an extra flake, strawberry sauce and sprinkles with a short but punchy set to promote their new album Dear River at the Rough Trade East record store in London.

From the opening notes of the Americana-infused ‘Ghost Narrative’, with its plea for healing and unity, the band were plainly enjoying the variety of the new material and wasted no time moving into ‘Tuesday’; the fast shuffle of Nat’s drumming providing the perfect foil to Emily’s urgent guitar.

The plaintive ballad ‘Letters’ offered a moment of introspection, with Gill’s flute foregrounded and the band’s trademark vocal harmonies soaring over Emily’s stately powerchords. Picking up the tempo again, the enthusiastic audience was treated to a rousing version of current single ‘Dear River’ with Anna’s violin in particular shining through.

Anna and Jo

The polyrhythms of ‘A Spadeful of Ground’ allowed the band to showcase both its collective musicianship and its skill at arranging the material: the strings working to counterpoint the staccato guitar while some skilful percussion picked out the uneven tempo was one of the highlights of the set.

A storming version of ‘Everywhen’ followed; Jo’s electric bass locking with Gill’s accordion while Anna’s spiralling violin wrapped around the highly infectious chorus, provoking outbreaks of restrained toe-tapping amongst even the coolest of the hipsters in the crowd and bringing the set to a fitting climax.

Emily, Nat and Gill

Winding down the session with ‘The Blackwood’, Emily’s a capella introduction, Gill’s laidback accordion and the sweetest harmonising of the evening combined to serve up a fittingly downhome closer. That the audience had been won over was in no doubt when the band were called back for an impromptu encore of ‘Disappeared’, an old favourite of the band and its fans alike – and the only song not from the new album.

On the evidence of this session – not to mention Dear River – Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo are in the best form they’ve ever been; if you get the chance to hear them at any of their upcoming gigs (details here and here), you should jump at it. And if, on the remote chance that they’re not playing in a town near you, then do check out the album; it’s surely going to be the soundtrack to a great British summer.

Soundcheck - (L-R) Anna, Jo, Emily, Nat, Gill

Setlist:

Ghost Narrative
Tuesday
Letters
Dear River
A Spadeful of Ground
Everywhen
The Blackwood
Encore: Disappear

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