LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - JUNE 2019
WONDERLAND - SARAH DARLING
Artist: Sarah Darling
Release Date: June 7th, 2019
Genre: Country, Country Pop, Singer-Songwriter
Record Label: Be Darling Records
Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
Already riding high in the UK Country charts ‘Wonderland’ is a wonderful fusion of transatlantic Country pop rock influences coupled with very high quality songwriting & musicianship plus Sarah’s fantastic pure vocals. You always know that Sarah’s albums are going to be very special and her independently released 5th studio album is no exception. It is a super follow up to her highly acclaimed last album ‘Dream Country’.
It has also been a very challenging time financially for Sarah. The album was originally crowdfunded through Pledge Music, which is now unfortunately in administration and unlikely to pay her the full funds raised by her many supporters.
‘Wonderland’ has come at a very pivotal time for Sarah. “Making ‘Wonderland’ has turned out to be one of the greatest musical adventures I’ve ever had” she explains, “Every song tells my story, and imprints this very special time in my life; when I got to create a country album in the UK! ‘Wonderland’ represents the greatest road trip of my life. Each song is a stop on the map, and important lessons along the way.”
Already a musical mainstay in Nashville. Sarah has been working hard to create an audience in the UK and has been richly embraced by the UK Country communities. With a British husband and time spent between London and Nashville, it was only natural that Sarah would made a decision to record her new album in the UK. A host of exceptional writers and producers came on board to collaborate with Sarah on ‘Wonderland’, from both the US and UK. Working with these songwriters has been a dream for Sarah, who took the challenge of writing with guests in her stride, “I’ve been in England for most of the year co-writing and working with producers. On this project, it’s really about new friends and new ideas. I literally would walk into a co-writing session, and had never met the person before. It’s so incredibly exciting to be finishing up the album, and to say I’ve recorded this in a different country. It’s a true reflection of me, and the current ride I’m on. Not to mention, I have new friends and memories for life. Music is about the connection. I’m so proud to share this trans-Atlantic collaboration. It’s the greatest adventure of my life to date!”
Calling the UK her “second home”, the Nashville based singer set out to embrace everything the UK had to offer,“I hope everyone gets to experience all the magic I had while recording it. I never imagined in a million years I’d be recording an album in the countryside of Wales. I wouldn’t change it for anything!” Whilst the early foundations for the record came together in Nashville with Mark Bright (Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban), Sarah soon relocated to London where she spent much of 2018 working with acclaimed writer/producers Ash Howes (Kylie, Gabriella Aplin), Pete Hammerton , producers MyRiot (London Grammar), and songwriters including Shelly Poole (Red Sky July) and Jessica Sharman (Ward Thomas/The Shires/Liv Austen).
“The whole concept of ‘Wonderland’ was to explore a brand new world artistically.” Continues Sarah, “Because of my connection to the U.K., I thought ‘what better place to bring my Nashville roots to be creative’. I think it’s good as an artist to stretch the boundaries, because you are always growing and that’s how you find new magic and move forward to wonderful, new places.”
Similar to Kasey Musgraves’ recent Grammy award winning album, ‘Wonderland’ positively sparkles with wonderful and highly crafted Country Pop gems. I really hope that it gets the recognition and high praise that it richly deserves.
The album opens with the beautiful and catchy infectious summer hit ‘Blue Sky’ with it’s Stevie Nicks and California West Coast Wilson Phillips vibe. This co-write with Mathew Benbrook and Amy Lawton is a song to play at full volume in an open top convertible on summer coast road. The high quality continues with high tempo country dance track ‘Call Me’, fusing together US and UK Country influences.
The slightly retro ‘London Fog’ is a real classy classic and you can imagine it being part of a big film soundtrack. It’s beautifully descriptive and I real love the piano/string/guitar arrangements, gentle brushed percussion and Sarah’s heavenly vocals. The song was a co-write with Raquel Cole and Jessica Campbell Waterman. It’s one of my favourites on the album.
The pace rises for the reflective love song ‘A Boy Like You’ with it’s more pop rock overtones. The fantastic anthemic ‘Shine’ is a co-write with Fred Wilhelm and Simon Gugala. It’s a sure fire hit and you can imagine it’s also one which will be remixed and sampled by some of the top dance producers. The high tempo and toe tapping ‘Light It Up’ is another super Country Pop Rock anthem
Another of my favourites on the album is the fantastic highly infectious Country Rock Disco ‘Enjoy The Ride’. I really hope Sarah releases this one as a single. Great funky bass lines and arrangements. Another beautifully written song is the personal and reflective ‘Timelapse’, which I think really showcases Sarah’s ethereal vocals. I love the underlying ‘heartbeat’ percussion.
Another firm favourite wIth a more traditional western Country feel is Sarah’s single ‘Fire’ ‘It’s a fantastic co-write with Peter Hammerton and Shelly Poole. Lovely string arrangement and lovely rhythmic train-like percussion. It’s the second track to be released from ‘Wonderland’ and is described by Sarah as “a tune that captures an emotional side to being an artist. It’s written after I saw a quote from Vincent Van Gogh about all the fire we have inside. After I read it, I realized that it’s exactly how I felt.”
“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.” – Vincent Van Gogh
A very big hit on the album is the very classy, positive and powerful ‘Diamonds’ a co-write with LCM favourite, London’s very own Jess Sharman. Another classy co-write this time with Jill Andrews and Trent Dabbs is ‘Dreams Fade Away’ a tale of lost love.
It’s fantastic to see Sarah’s very good friend, co-collaborator and tour partner Jenn Bostic joining Sarah and Michael Logan for ‘A Little Bit Of Rain’. It’s beautifully cinematic and has touches of Gretchen Peters songwriting style. As love fades and a relationship fails, thoughts turn elsewhere and create a series of life changing experiences with the power of a hurricane. Super pedal steel by Kyle Everson.
This rich and wonderful album concludes with a super piano led ballad ‘Talk About The Weather’, a co-write with Million Miles and Hannah Yadi.
Very highly recommended
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