Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo at Rough Trade East
Almost everyone has heard of the BBC hit TV series Wallander starring the great British actor that is Kenneth Branagh, but less people would have heard of the person behind the show’s theme song. Nostalgia by 30-year old Australian Emily Barker was chosen and re-recorded by composer Martin Phipps for the show with the assistance of the singer herself.
Outside of television, Barker has released six albums so far – two with guitarist Rob Jackson under the name The Low Country and four with her all-female, multi-instrumentalist three-piece band The Red Clay Halo. She has also supported and worked with folk/punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner who featured on her single Fields of June, as well as supporting him on many occasions and even performing backing vocals for his performance at the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. Fresh off the release of their new album Dear River, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo arrive, Turner-less, at record store Rough Trade East for a free, intimate gig.
You can see why Turner turned to the group for his support band: Barker’s unique and talented voice brings a new freshness to the folk genre and, with the help of her backing band, she brings each of her tracks to life to hypnotise the audience and create a hushed awe throughout the set. Even with quite a few of the spectators seemingly unaware of her back catalogue, it is such a pleasant surprise to see her able to captivate the whole room.
Most of the material here is from the new album, but with a few songs from past releases, it shows how consistently good their musical output has been. It’s obvious why Phipps kept coming back to them. The Red Clay Halo are as talented as musicians as they are varied. Between the three of them, their inventory of instruments ranges from accordions to banjos, and each is played with such skill and determination it’s surprising that they haven’t tried going off on their own.
However, it is Barker who steals the show. This is a woman who knows her craft, has a formula and sticks to it. With this free, eye-opener of a show under her belt, perhaps one day it will be Frank Turner who will be singing backing vocals for her. A big ask, but a truly achievable goal.
Photos: David Wilson Clarke
For further information visit Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo’s website here.
Watch the video for Nostalgia here: