Emily Barker - Sweet Kind of Blue - Louder Than War
The distinguishing feature of Emily Barker’s work with the Red Clay Halo, Vena Portae, Applewood Road and solo, is an easy, classy quality. As the album title suggests, she’s turned smooth soul cabaret chanteuse and acknowledges her blues roots
Remarkably, Sweet Kind Of Blue is the first full studio album since Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo’s Dear River in 2013. Recorded in June 2016 at the legendary Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, the legacy of the environment and the studios former clients seems to have seeped through and inspired Emily to deliver a stylish yet typically ballsy set. Produced by Matt Ross-Spang fresh from his recent Grammy success with Jason Isbell and backed by top Memphis musicians Rick Steff, Dave Smith, Dave Cousar and Steve Potts, Sweet Kind Of Blue draws on lost love, poignant humanity, the exuberance of road tripping and the magic of a new love.
It’s a soundtrack packed full of cool grooves and for Emily Barker, you get the sense that life feels good; the music a summary of her psyche. For anyone who may have thought that she was a straightforward country tinged songstress, think again as the album breezes in on a wave of sophisticated funk on the title track. One that’s immediately contrasted with the more sombre, smoky and soul filled mood of the first single Sister Goodbye and a jangly r&b groove in Sunrise, the latter inspired by a Swedish road trip. A trio that set the tone for ten songs that showcase Emily Barker in a new (blue) light.
Moments such as Change and Crazy Life find her in more familiar territory, streetlights flickering in the Tennessee rain in a lonesome country refrain complete with subtle organ stabs and strings. Switching to crooning lullabies to the melancholy and on to Motown swing; from the intimate and tender in one breathe to bigger production moments, she’s energised and invigorated.
Sweet Kind Of Blue is essentially another side of Emily Barker. On the one hand there are those who might say they never knew she had it in her, while for some, this set may be the one she was destined to make.