"Sally Barker is a singer's singer and a songwriter's songwriter. You will remember the very first time you heard her sing for her voice is like no other. She has the ability to lift the words off the page and can move people to tears armed with that 'bucket-full of soul' voice.
As a singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Sally has had a long and varied career in music. Labelled a folk artist for much of her successful career, Sally's appeal stretches across many more musical genres. A much respected solo artist with half a dozen solo albums to her name, Sally is also celebrated for her live and studio work fronting all-female folk supergroup The Poozies." adapted from a short biog by Simon Redley
Sally began writing songs and performing music at the age of 10 and has recorded half a dozen CDs of her own songs as well as featuring on many others. Her influences, vocal and guitar-wise include Janis Ian, Gladys Knight, Bessie Smith, Bonnie Raitt, John Martyn and Aretha Franklin, to name only a few.
In her late teens, Sally worked as half of a duo called Sally And Chris with bass player Chris Watson, performing folk and blues in pubs and clubs in the Midlands. Later the duo went on to support Steeleye Span, Gordon Giltrap and Roy Harper.
After Sally won the Kendal Songsearch Competition in 1986 with the song ‘Hunting the Buffalo’, she began touring in a support capacity to acts such as Fairport Convention, Taj Mahal and Richard Thompson.
Sally was subsequently offered a deal with the Hamburg based record label Hypertension Music. The first album,“Sally Barker” was released in 1988 and led to great success on mainland Europe.
Her second release, "This Rhythm Is Mine", showed the ongoing development of her maturing musical potential, and in 1990, she opened for both Bob Dylan and Robert Plant in Germany. The album also received a U.S. release on Ryko's Hannibal label.
"Beating the Drum", the "Money's Talking/Tango!" EP, "Favourite Dish", "Passion & The Countess" and "Another Train - The Compilation" were all subsequently released and Sally toured consistently in Europe during this time.
Here is a YouTube clip of 'Sleepy Eyes' from the 'Favourite Dish' album.
In 1989 Sally met harpists Mary Macmaster and Patsy Seddon (aka Sileas) and invited them to play on “This Rhythm Is Mine". The session was such fun they decided to form a new band to experiment with a mixture of styles. That idea turned into the all-female folk group The Poozies, playing a mixture of cajun, gaellic, folk, blues and country. The line-up also featured Karen Tweed (accordion) who Sally had met at the Hong Kong Folk Festival. Sally played with The Poozies until 1996 when she left and was replaced by Kate Rusby.
Sally's 2003 album "Maid in England", which had been six years in the making (interrupted by 2 pregnancies and her husband's illness), was muted by the death of her husband through a recurrence of cancer in August of that year. Music became an academic pursuit for the next 4 years as Sally studied at de Montfort University for a degree in Music Technology with the occasional gig squeezed in between bringing up the kids.
On 'Maid in England' Sally recorded a version of 'Captains', a song she had guested on with Show of Hands at the Royal Albert Hall. Here is that performance
In the autumn of 2006 Barker reunited with The Poozies for a series of shows, depping for the pregnant Eilidh Shaw. Sally subsequently rejoined The Poozies in January 2007 and they continue to perform together (for more info check out poozies.co.uk).
Sally graduated from DMU with a 2:1 in June 2007 and continued to work occasionally with The Poozies. She also began the Joni Mitchell Project, a show she performed with piano and dulcimer player Glenn Hughes, featuring an evening from the wide repertoire of Joni Mitchell. An album, Conversation : the Joni Tapes Vol 1 was released in 2010 with a launch at the Edinburgh Fringe on 18th August at the Acoustic Music Centre at St Brides. The Joni Mitchell Project is currently resting.
Sally also worked sporadically over the next couple of years on several duo projects, including Genfan & Barker (with US guitarist and songwriter Vicki Genfan), Buck & Barker (with multi-instrumentalist Keith Buck) and Barker & Son (with her son, Dillon Wakeford).
Sally suffered a period of ill health between Dec 2012 and June 2013. During this time Sally's sons persuaded her to audition for one of their favourite programmes - BBC TV's The Voice.
In April 2014 Sally appeared in the final of the Voice UK 2014. The prime time BBC TV programme saw Sally consistently championed by her mentor, Sir Tom Jones.
Sir Tom told Sally "For me, it was just full of emotion. It was just so beautiful that I couldn't help myself. You swept me off my feet".
Although Sally didn't win (coming a respectable 2nd equal) she has gained many more fans with her flawless performances. Since her appearance on the Voice, Sally's back catalogue has seen a resurgence in sales. Sally's album 'Another Train' featured in the official indie charts and 'ebayers' were asking in excess of £100 for 2nd hand Barker LPs and CDs !
Sally sang the Olly Murs song 'Dear Darlin' in the final of ‘The Voice'. The song was released by Universal Music and was the highest charting single of the Voice 2014 Finalists. As a result of this Sally was offered a recording contract for a covers album with Universal. Sally was committed to finishing the album ‘Into The Well’ with the Poozies so passed on the Universal deal. However, she is quoted as saying that if Universal had offered her the chance to record an album of her own songs, she would have been tempted to accept the deal.
The association with Sally's 'Voice' mentor continued with support slots to Sir Tom at a number of his Summer Concerts. Appearances at the EDINBURGH FRINGE were followed by a short headline tour in September to support the re-release of her last solo album MAID IN ENGLAND. This recording included newly recorded versions of 'Dear Darlin' & 'To Love Somebody' from 'The Voice'.
Through 2015 Sally toured with the Poozies to support the release of ‘Into The Well’. During this time Sally also toured with the re-formed FOTHERINGAY (www.fotheringay.com).
September 2015 sawh the release of Sally’s next recording, the 6-track LOVE RAT ep. This CD contains 4 new songs plus live versions of ‘Voice’ favourites ‘Walk On By’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. Sally toured during September 2015 to support its release.
In September and November 2015 Sally performed a number of 30 minute 'pop-up’ gigs for Leicester’s Hospice LOROS, as they celebrate their 30th year in existence. Sally’s husband Chris died at LOROS in August 2003 so it is a charity that she is happy to support.
Sally saw the New Year in at Australia's Woodford Folk Festival with the Poozies. The band spent over 3 weeks touring on the East coast enjoying the wonderful Australian weather. In March this year Sally played her final gigs with the Poozies. Sally will continue to tour solo and as part of the reformed Fotheringay throughout 2016 as she writes and records her next solo album, which will be released in January 2017.
"Sally changes the atmosphere in a room when she sings" (BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans).
"I have to say you sound amazing and angelic" (Will.i.am).
"That was beautiful. Sally makes the room stop." (Kylie Minogue).
"her enormous vocal range and stupendous control can relax or rouse at will - she coaxes her voice from that of a mild modern English rose to raw throated blues." from a review at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
List of solo recordings:
with The Joni Mitchell Project:
Conversation: The Joni Tapes Vol 1 (2010) (available on iTunes)
with the Poozies:
Chantoozies (1993) – Hypertension; Dansoozies (1995)
Raise your head: A Retrospective (2000) - Compass
Yellow Like Sunshine (2009) – Greentrax