'Almanac' is the third studio album by Anglo-Australian quartet Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo. It includes the song 'Pause', the theme tune from the award-winning soundtrack of BBC TV drama The Shadow Line.
'From the bucolic build that opens Billowing Sea, via the mournful strings of Dancers - which, again, treads a lyrical path to bodies of water - to the sumptuous climax of Bones, a song capping the album's greatly graphical wordplay with talk of "a wound of a thousand cuts", this is a dream of a record. So perfectly formed is it that, chances are, the listener will need to go around again immediately, to make sure they weren't imagining anything' BBC Music Magazine
'What should be obvious to anyone who listens to Almanac, whether they are a folk fan or not, is that Emily Barker is a confident and accomplished songwriter, and that still counts for a lot. These compositions have clearly been crafted by an expert in the genre. This means that there is plenty in the style and the content of Barker's music to appease the folk traditionalists...What's more, there is enough skill, emotion and beauty in Almanac to attract the more casual folk followers. Emily Barker comes pretty close to striking that tricky balance.' Drowned in Sound
Within 'Almanac' there are stories of love, renewal, the importance of community and our relationship to the earth. Shadowing these lighter themes are darker truths of untold atrocities committed by settlers on indigenous Australians during colonisation, the mass hysteria regarding a Scottish witch-hunt, flourishing love and good old-fashioned heartbreak.
Although fronted by Emily, this is definitely a group album, with the four members of Emily, Gill, Jo and Anna providing guitar, accordion & flute, cello and violin respectively, with backing vocals shared out across the eleven songs. The quartet are joined throughout the disc by guest musicians who add a range of guitars, percussion and double bass, that add depth and drive to the collection. Emily is a compelling songwriter with a gift for melody and words. Her talent is perfectly complimented by the magnificent arrangements of The Red Clay Halo. Throughout the album, the interplay between the band's rootsy ensemble playing, and Barker's agile vocal blend of strength and fragility, is effortlessly engaging. In moments when the four female voices combine to deliver arresting harmonies, it is simply blissful.
Highlights include the dreamy textures of ‘Billowing Sea', the nimble arrangements of ‘Reckless', and the atmospheric lyrics of ‘Witch of Pittenweem'. ‘Almanac' is a beautifully constructed and charming album, it certainly feels organic and natural, and the presentation of the songs is unaffected and with a real genuine air.
Upon its release 'Almanac' immediately attracted strong support from BBC Radio with sessions for Cerys Matthews on 6 Music and Radio 4's Loose Ends, and single 'Little Deaths' was picked as 'Record of the Week' on Nemone's 6 Music show. The album was also named 'Editor's Choice' by BBC Music Magazine.
All songs written by Emily Barker apart from 'Dancers' (Emily Barker/Ted Barnes) and 'Light' (Emily Barker/Ben Lloyd)
All songs arranged by Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo
Produced by Emily Barker and Ted Barnes
Recorded, engineered and additional production by Cherif Hashizume @ Café Music Studio, Bow
Mixed by Cherif Hashizume and Mark Sutherland
Mastered by Tim Turan at turanaudio.co.uk
Artwork by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini
Design and layout by Richard Loveday
Emily Barker: vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, percussion, metallophone and chimes
Gill Sandell: backing vocals, accordion, flute, pipe organ, piano and electric guitar
Jo Silverston: backing vocals, cello, banjo and musical saw
Anna Jenkins: backing vocals and violin
Dom Coyote: vocals on 'Witch of Pittenweem'
Ted Barnes: acoustic and electric guitars, slide guitar, mandolin, percussion, glockenspiel, thumb piano and toys
Nat Butler: drums
Ali Friend: double bass
Liz Jones: trumpet
Ben Eshmade: french horn and flugel horn