Have You Heard? – (53) “Dear River” by Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo


If you read this blog, you’ll know how much I like Emily Barker’s music. On my holiday on the Costa Brava, Spain, over the last couple of weeks, I made some good progress on my book on music. It included writing about three of my favourite artists over the past couple of years: Emily, The Staves and Lindi Ortega. As I always do, I listened again to the albums I was writing about. Emily and group released “Dear River” in 2013. I liked it, of course. It seemed a bit rockier than earlier albums and that worked well, including on the live stage. I liked “Letters” and “Ghost Narrative” best.

On holiday I really gave it a better listen than ever. Even had a good look at the lyrics. And what a wonderful story it revealed. It’s an album about place, about roots and being away from home. Having more than one home and loving both. And about the ambiguity of the feeling about your roots, when others – the native people of Australia in Emily’s case – have suffered as others dug their roots deep into the soil. There’s a metaphor about water, rivers, nature, that runs through the album, with a nostalgia for the Blackwood river back in her homeland of Western Australia. But there is also reflection on the turmoil of Europe in the second world war – Emily has Dutch ancestry.

The more I listened, the more profound I found the album. It is one to listen to the whole way through, which we rarely do these days, when you can just pick out favourite tracks early on, and neglect the rest. It was one of the previously neglected tracks that hit home for me on holiday.  “In The Winter I Returned”. A truly beautiful song, unassuming, but about how Emily feels as she returns to Australia, when her main home is now England. I was making salads for a barbecue when, one evening, the song came on. It sent a shiver down my spine. That love of place – more than one place – and a kind of sadness about separation, wherever you happen to be at the time, felt so real.

All the choices I have made lead me to this place…

This video of “In The Winter I Returned” is one of a series on the whole album, where you can read the lyrics as the song progresses. Produced by Emily, to make her music as accessible as possible. A great thing to do. I hope you enjoy – and go on to listen to some of the other tracks.


About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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3 Responses to Have You Heard? – (53) “Dear River” by Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo

  1. Resa says:

    Beautiful, and I got shivers, too, up and down my arms for the duration of the song!

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