Album review: Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo – Dear River

Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo - Dear River

Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo - Dear River - Credit: Archant

Emily’s latest, and first for the audiophile Linn label, puts her head and shoulders above the majority of country/folk singer-songwriters with mature, emotive imagery and accomplished musicianship.

After self-financing her first three albums, Emily and her folksy-country backing band have bagged a label.

And it marks a progression from her critically-acclaimed predecessors, with injections of drama and greater contrast between Emily’s agile voice and evocative arrangements.

Dear River reveals a breadth of talent and tastes expertly marshalled into a compelling set.

From the Dixie-country twang of the title track – a letter to the Blackwood River written on the eve of her leaving Oz, longing for the unfamiliar and full of rootsy violin – to the gentle pop of Leaving and darkly evocative, twisting highlight Everywhen, this LP is a dazzling shape-shifter.

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Tuesday’s vivid story, depicting an urgent escape in soaring vocals above barreling guitar, plumped with accordion and nimble, dancing violin, is a triumph while the weighty country-rock of Ghost Narrative echoes Neil Young.

A line in the sand for Emily, this is a lyrical and musical gem.

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4 stars

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