Review: Emily Barker and The Red Clay Halo

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I’m not sure there are many artists who could take a close encounter with a grizzly bear in the Canadian wilderness and turn it into the yearning love song Home.

But that’s Emily Barker for you.

The Australian Americana/roots singer-songwriter has won a devoted audience over the past decade, but, as she tells us, this will be her last with her long-term backing band, the three-piece Halo, for a while.

So on this tour they’ve been fielding requests through social media, and several ‘new old’ songs have been resurrected as a result. And we should be grateful to Sean Fisher – his request for Reckless results in a set highlight.

Nostalgia is perhaps her best- known song, but the Bafta-winning theme song for the British remake of Wallander is played early in the set without fanfare.

Support act Christian Kjellvander is also brought back to trade vocals with Barker on the ‘little light-hearted murder ballad’ Fields of June, to fine effect.

Letters, from recent album Dear River, was also a request, and it tells the powerful story of Barker’s Dutch grandparents who emigrated to Australia in the ’50s, and vowed never to speak of their past again. It was only after they died that Barker’s mother discovered their wartime stories. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful, like so much of this performance.