Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo at St James’s Church
Say what you will: concerts in churches are almost universally awful. Beautiful setting and decent acoustics aside, in any other venue the generally obscured viewing, uncomfortable pews, and limit of one lavatory per gender would devastate TripAdvisor with a flood of one-star reviews. It’s particularly impressive, then, that Emily Barker and her incredibly talented backing band, The Red Clay Halo, can make their 90-minute performance so enjoyable.
Barker herself has been performing for a while, and the band have been playing together for nine or so years. While 2013’s album Dear River displays the group’s talents well, there is an added charm to their folk/country style in person.
Barker has an easy rapport with the crowd, and the back-and-forth banter between her multi-talented bandmates is a pleasure to watch. The all-girl troop seem to play everything from precision cello to the lowly egg shaker and quite a lot in-between. There’s great variety to be found in the multitude of combinations.
An added benefit of their years on the folk scene is an extensive library from which Baker encourages her audience to make requests. Like their armoury of instruments, the tracks differentiate themselves nicely, strong harmonies and Baker’s well-tuned, inoffensive voice dominating everything.
Barker’s real talent is an innate ability for storytelling, and tracks like Letters – an exploration into her grandparent’s poignant history – mine her rich, unique heritage, coming up with a uniquely engaging subject matter.
As Barker reminds us at the end of her performance, this tour will be the last time the band play together for a while. It’s at once a genuine shame, and a time for excitement, as the borrowed dulcet tones of support act Christian Kjellvander on one track mimic those in Barker’s new project Vena Portae. Definitely one to keep an eye out for.
Joe Manners Lewis
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information about Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Letters here: