Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 27/02/2012 | Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo / Eliza Carthy – The Lexington, London

27/02/2012 | Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo / Eliza Carthy – The Lexington, London

Lisa Ward


Eliza Carthy might be the headliner but judging by the crowd’s response and their departure mid way through her set, Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo are clearly the band of the night. Musically the two can’t be further apart, Emily fusing low key harmonies over sweeping strings and a quiet presence, whilst Eliza is fuelled by up tempo rhythms and anecdotal stories.

Whether it’s opener Billowing Sea or Wallander theme tune Nostalgia, Emily and her band combine heartfelt emotion with rousing melodies, transporting you off to another world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the lamenting Bones, her homage to the indigenous people of Australia, where she effortlessly creates a sense of time and place. The only downfall to her short, yet precise set is the choice to bring Dom Coyote on stage for Fields of June as opposed to The Witch of Pittenweem. Whilst the former is a solid number, there’s a sense that The Witch of Pittenweem would have brought a little more breadth to the set, showcasing latest album Almanac’s full range.

Whilst Emily champions the heartfelt, Eliza’s set focuses firmly on her newer, more obscure numbers. Whether it’s Hansel & Gretel inspired Breadcrumbs or the more personal anecdote of a bad night in London in Blood On My Boots the band combine more uptempo sounds slowing only late in the set for Write A Letter and Tea At Five. For anyone not enthralled with Neptune or Dreams of Breathing Under Water the set is likely to disappoint, Eliza’s extensive back catalogue being firmly shelved, but if like me you revel in the black humour of songs like Mr Magnifico and Britain is a Carpark, then the set is effortlessly perfect.

In essence it’s a line up which shouldn’t work, Emily and Eliza sitting at two opposite ends of the spectrum, and yet it’s diversity is the thing which holds it together.  Styles aside, what’s clear is that both are masters of their own trade, juxtaposing and simultaneously complementing one another and in a single night, blowing away any myth of what folk music is supposed to be.



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