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Snowed in with Emily Barker

Emily Barker : Vena PortaeThe first time I met Emily Barker, eight or nine years ago, she was working behind the counter at Brill in Exmouth Market, a small but perfectly formed Clerkenwell coffee-and-CDs shop. She’d come over from Australia a couple of years earlier, and soon she was recording an album and playing gigs with her band, Red Clay Halo (including one memorable performance to about 50 people crammed into the shop). A stroke of deserved luck arrived when “Nostalgia”, a track from her second album, was used as the title music for the BBC’s remake of Wallander, winning her a BAFTA award.

Her latest project is an album by a trio with Dom Coyote and Ruben Engzell, called Vena Portae. They recorded it in a temporary studio in  Mölnbo, a small town in Sweden, while snowed in during the winter before last: a kind of Scandinavian Big Pink. It came out a few weeks ago on the Humble Soul label. Here’s the lead-off track, “Summer Kills”: listen out for the subtle touches of saxophones and bass clarinet (all played by Magic Gunnarsson) behind Emily’s lovely voice.

She and Red Clay Halo — Anna Jenkins (violin, viola), Jo Silverston (cello, bass, banjo, saw) and Gill Sandell (accordion, piano, flute) — are on tour in Britain next month. I’m going to try and catch them at St James’s Church in Piccadilly. Meanwhere here are a couple of video clips: first at the Union Chapel in Islington two years ago, performing “Nostalgia”, and then in the studio this month with a quite heartbreakingly beautiful cover of Tom Waits’s “Day After Tomorrow”.

* The photograph is from the jacket of Vena Portae and was taken by Johan Bergmark.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Steve Hurrell #

    I’m looking forward to hearing this new ensemble too, but am pleased that I will see Emily and the Red Clay Halo when they come to our home town as part of the tour. In fact it is where they now live. She is married to Dom Coyote and I saw them play together in October 2012 as part of his show ‘the Ruan Tree’ at Stroud’s Brunel Goods Shed. Thanks for highlighting their music.

    October 24, 2014
  2. I daresay you’ve heard all of Emily Barker’s albums with the Red Clay Halo , but if not I would recommend all four of them (the first, I think, was before the band was actually formed). The latest, I’ve come to think, is the best. “Dear River”, a wonderful piece about memories, identity, belonging. And as ever, beautiful, moving singing and playing. After the current tour, the band is parting, for now. So all the more reason for getting to that St James’s Piccadilly concert if you are in London. I’ll be there!

    October 24, 2014

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