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Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo - Dear River - Live Music Scene


20 June 2013
Live Music Scene
Edward Upham

‘Dear River' is the fourth album by Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo. Emily Barker packs a beautiful voice to the recognisable sounds that define the country genre. First track of the album, title track ‘Dear River' possesses the most mainstream sound of the entire album yet to come. I definitely would not be surprised if this received play on the less genre-specific radio stations. The brilliant introduction is followed by the much more sinister in sound second track ‘Tuesday', but the darkness is soothed by ‘Letters' that follows directly after ‘Tuesday'. Both of which prove themselves as strong songs worthy of many a listener's ear.

‘The Leaving' follows resulting in an increase of optimistic sounds with the song's most memorable trait being the prolonged ‘ahh's' that play out the closing seconds of the piece. The album takes a further step upwards on the tempo as ‘Everywhen' commences to further display the musical talents within the band. A personal favourite within this track was the line of lyric; "Sorry is only as strong as the time it takes for the past to repeat again."

The tempo is lowered again with neither hesitation nor remorse as ‘Sleeping Horses' rolls in. Once again the word ‘river' makes an appearance in the lyrics which appears to be a recurring theme on the album and only compliments the title. The song however, whilst strong in places, fails to stand out. The lowering of the tempo was mere temporary as displayed by the following track ‘Ghost Narrative'. ‘Ghost Narrative' will later go on to fearlessly showcase an electric guitar partnered by the classical folk instruments and, unless I'm mistaken, a first appearance for the accordion on the album.

‘A Spadeful of Ground', as should be anticipated from the title, contains numerous references to land. Another instrument makes its debut in this track but I fail to identify exactly what it is. ‘The Cormorant and the Heron' slows the album down to a level that became unfamiliar with the passing of ‘Sleeping Horses' and fails to attract my interest despite the well-constructed elegance that the track displays. ‘In The Winter I Returned', like so many songs before it on this album, is well-written and charming, with the title proving to be a major spoiler for the themes within the song of travelling and a wintery climate. The album is rounded out by the fairly optimistic sounding ‘The Blackwood' and features the first solely vocal introduction of the album. Aside from this to set it apart it is the shortest track of the record and it sure feels like it as it proves itself to be both an enjoyable listen and competent at its job of closing the album out.

For fans of the genre I'd call this album a must have and for everybody else I'd say that it is a must listen. Even if that is only once, just to appreciate the craft and beauty of this record.


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