Sweet Kind of Blue is Emily Barker’s new album, the first full studio album Barker has released since 2013’s Dear River and this marks a new sound as she returns to the blues influences that first inspired her to get into music. Her influences are clearly wide-ranging, from gospel to country, with a little bit of Judy Garland thrown in for good measure, Barker has recorded a mediocre album which showcases her taste.
Emily Barker, born 2 December 1980, is an Australian singer-songwriter, musician and composer. Her music has featured as the theme to award winning BBC dramas, Wallander and The Shadow Line. With multi-instrumental trio The Red Clay Halo, she recorded four albums: Photos.Fires.Fables. (2006), Despite The Snow (2008), Almanac (2011), and Dear River (2013), whilst releasing a solo album The Toerag Sessions (2015). Other projects include Vena Portae, with Dom Coyote and Ruben Engzell, and Applewood Road, with Amy Speace and Amber Rubarth.
Recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis with producer Matt Ross-Spang, Sweet Kind of Blue was released through Everyone Sang/Kartel on 19th May. Sister Goodbye, a track about pioneering rock ‘n’ roll and blues guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe was the first to be released from the album. It also indulges us featuring top Memphis session players Rick Steff, Dave Smith, Dave Cousar and Steve Potts. Stripped down to a drum and piano-led track, this ballad, incorporating lyrics such as “precious memories falling down from the sky” builds, layering guitar and more of a honky-tonk sound.
Her bluesy, country sound juxtaposed with her somewhat seductive vocals is not short of talent but lacking something. The opening track, Sweet Kind of Blue, is reminiscent of Alabama 3, with it’s soulful richness, touching on gospel. No. 5 Hurricane is more raw, yet a melodic ballad with aspects of country, which is also apparent in the lyrics: “And it’s true, I guess you were right, I was never smart with love.” If We Forget to Dance is rightfully a toe-tapper and Crazy Life has more of a Dolly Parton sound, underpinned with some strings, offsetting Barker’s vocals. Over My Shoulder at moments reminds me of too much Judy Garland’s Over the Rainbow. However, Barker does not have the same trademark vocals of Garland, or her own, as you hear more of her influences throughout this album, rather than a cultivated sound that screams Emily Barker.
That’s the one thing that is lacking with this album, with references aplenty, a unique Emily Barker hum, making it less interesting listening. But the talent is there.
Sweet Kind of Blue was released on 19th May 2017 via Everyone Sang/Kartel.