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Live: Emily Barker – In-store session at Banquet Records, Kingston (17 July 2013)

July 17, 2013

Dear RiverLook, I’m no spring chicken: that’s not up for debate. But certain truths have become apparent to me down the years on my numerous journeys around the block. And one of those truths is that a well-written song will repay any number of different arrangements and still sound, not just like ‘a good tune’, but that the individuality of its writer will still shine through. And, it has to be said, those musicians tend to be very few and far between.

Emily Barker is one such talent and she’s demonstrated it effortlessly every time I’ve heard her play, be it with The Red Clay Halo, or with The Red Clay Halo augmented with a rhythm section, or simply as a solo performer – the quality of her songwriting is such that her music will stand all these permutations and still sound fresh and unique.

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Her recent in-store show at Banquet Records in Kingston, in support of the new album Dear River, was no exception. This time, she was joined on violin and harmony vocals by Anna Jenkins – “A Red Clay Halo”, as Emily wryly introduced her. The sweltering heat of the day and the hassle of travelling through the London rush hour faded into insignificance during what was, dare I say, an uncharacteristically laidback set. ‘Dear River‘ opened the proceedings with Anna’s violin flowing in a gentle swirl around the guitar, with ‘Tuesday’ setting the stage for the harrowing tale of separation and flight from conflict described in ‘Letters’.

Ghost Narrative‘, with its poetic yet perceptive plea for unity and healing, was a restrained but persistent foot-tapper but, for me, the standout – by a country mile – was a spine-tingling version of ‘Sleeping Horses’. Even stripped back to just a guitar and two voices as it was here, this is a gorgeous and evocative song that resonates with me in ways I struggle to verbalise. All I know is that it brought out the goosebumps on my arms in the same way that ‘Pause’ does. Even simplicity can be breathtakingly beautiful. A personal favourite of mine from Almanac – ‘Calendar’ – closed the set and couldn’t have been a more timely choice in the light of Greenpeace’s recent Ice Climb of The Shard and the weather forecasts of increasing smog as London bakes in the July heat…

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Setlist:

Dear River
Tuesday
Letters
Ghost Narrative
Sleeping Horses
Calendar

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ETA, 18 July: Video of the set, made by Banquet Records

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