On the Tuesday just gone, 27 March, I went along, with a couple of friends, to the Half Moon, Putney, just along from Putney Bridge, in South West London, to see Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo. I was introduced to the band when I saw them play a set supporting Eliza Carthy at the Lexington on the Pentonville Road, North London. I’d not heard of them before that, but was really knocked out by the performance. I blogged on it before – see my piece called “Two Gigs and Three Discoveries”.
I’d not been to the Half Moon for ages, but it is a great venue. An intimate space, now with red and black decor. It was certainly different when I last went there, but it’s back to the eighties, and the brain cells haven’t stored any memories. I remember the band: Morrissey- Mullen, a jazz funk combo. Morrissey – or was it Mullen? – had been a guitarist in the Average White Band. Good pub as well, with a decent range of beers. Worth a visit.
The support was a singer/ guitarist called Jenny Lindfors. She’s Irish, based in London, and plays a jazzy, bluesy folk, with, I noticed, the capo quite a way down the fretboard, to give a sweeter sound. That’s about as technical as I get! I really liked her music and her sense of humour. Most of the songs were from her “difficult second album”, not yet released. Her first album is called “When The Night Time Comes” and is only £4.99 on iTunes. I downloaded it after the gig, and would recommend it to anyone.
Emily and her band played a fantastic set. I’d been familiarising myself with the songs after the Lexington gig, buying the latest album, “Almanac” and the previous one, “Despite The Snow”. Both wonderful albums. Folk with soul, with a celtic flavour at times, sometimes a little bluesy. Beautiful music, basically.
Emily plays guitar. The rest of her band are Anna Jenkins on violin, and, I heard on Tuesday, “foot banjo”; Jo Silverston on cello and banjo; and Gill Sandell on accordion, flute, percussion and guitar. And all provide the harmonies that give the sound a lovely extra dimension. I saw the band’s music described somewhere as “chamber folk”. This is not a genre that I had previously been acquainted with. I can see what it means, given the absence of drums and conventional bass (Jo and Anna pluck some rhythms on the cello and violin) but this is music that could reach out on any stage. It has a real resonance.
The photos here are a bit ropey, having been taken in a dark room with an iPhone with no flash and sometimes on zoom. Excuses aside, here are the members of the band.
The first song was one that I didn’t know, but was clearly called “This Is How It’s Meant To Be”. A lovely country song with some great bursts of harmonica from Emily. It’s a song from the first album, “Photos. Fires. Fables.”. It set the tone for the evening. Beautiful, wistful, soulful music, subtle and elegant musical backing, wonderful harmonies. Emily has a great voice, effortless but affecting. Songs like “Reckless” and “Ropes” from “Almanac” stood out, as did the two that have found fame (of sorts) by becoming theme tunes for TV series. “Nostalgia” (the theme to “Wallander”) for me is one of those songs fits perfectly into my definition of celtic soul – yearning, sad, but uplifting through its beauty.
And then there was “Pause”. The theme to ‘The Shadow Line”. That’s great, but doesn’t mean much to me as I’ve never watched it. What “Pause” means to me is that it is one of the most beautiful songs that I have ever heard. Especially live. It’s the one where Emily gently strums an electric guitar, but otherwise it’s just her singing, her lament about a lost love, and the harmonies from Anna, Jo and Gill. Very simple, slow, impressionistic. Delicate fragments of sound as much as a song. I’m not surprised it found its way into a series based in Scandinavia, with, no doubt, big skies and lots of snow. It grabbed me at the Lexington and transfixed me at the Half Moon. I just love it. My new favourite tune.
This is the band singing “Pause”. Impossible to get all four in the shot from where I was standing, quite near the stage.
I’m sure that there are zillions of other bands out there, that if I heard, I would love. That’s the joy of music. Whom you discover, who really moves you, is really quite a random thing. Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo were second on the bill at one of the gigs that The Word magazine puts on at the Lexington. Pure chance that I got to hear them. But I’m so glad I did.