After releasing three acclaimed albums on their own terms, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo have taken a bold step forward in a career that is rapidly gathering pace. Dear River is their first album to be released after signing to Linn Records and is perhaps their most accomplished release to date. It is both sonically and thematically different to its predecessors, but the core of what made those albums successful remains.

Rather than making any kind of dramatic stylistic shift, Barker has embraced sounds that compliment her folk beginnings and created an album with flourishes of country, Americana and roots rock. In addition to the acoustic guitar, accordion, violin and female harmonies that characterised her first three albums there are electric guitars - clean and distorted - as well as harmonicas and keyboards. The result of this is an album that offers a variety of sounds and styles and yet is held together by Emily's wonderful vocal performance.

Her voice is as strong here as ever, and I would argue that she also delivers some of her best vocals yet. The range over which she works is far greater than before. In tracks like 'Letters' her voice seems to glide above the electric guitars, and the harmonies from the other members of the Red Clay Halo are almost choral in quality. There is also an increased confidence in her delivery as well which suits the more rock-orientated backing.

There are moments on this record however, that are similar in tone to previous releases. With its finger-picked acoustic backing and soft violins, 'In The Winter I Returned' could easily sit alongside material from previous album Almanac. Whilst the vulnerability present in 'Sleeping Horses' along with the atmospheric instrumentation recalls the haunting track 'Pause'.

Throughout its 11 tracks, Dear River explores themes of place and identity, something Barker has experience of herself, having been born in Bridgetown, Australia, but now based in the UK. The album is interspersed with her own tales of travel and home. Closing track 'The Blackwood' is named after a river near where she grew up and is part of a thread running through the album that links rivers with ideas of journey and discovery that are best showcased in the opening and closing tracks – 'Dear River' being about leaving, and 'The Blackwood' about returning. Emily Barker showcases her ability as a songwriter and ties the album together conceptually, to make it more than just a collection of songs, but a wonderful musical experience.