Back in September three American artists took the ‘Nashville in the Round’ format around various listening venues up and down the UK. While all three performers brought distinct qualities to the show, it was the songs of Sarah Darling that stood up to the most favourable scrutiny in this category during the evening.The good news is that much of what Sarah previewed then has surfaced on her new album which gets a formal UK release in early February. The even better news is the whole record, presented under the apt title DREAM COUNTRY, is a most accomplished effort, setting its stall out and fulfilling a pre-ordained objective of making a deeply personal connective album.
From the coupling title, the term ‘dream’ is probably the most appropriate as an ethereal floating effect transcends through a majority of the ten tracks. While there are traces of a contemporary country sound, the lines of genres blend into a melting pot leaving a record best enjoyed without any pre-determined labels or formulas. Its success stems from an agenda free approach and Sarah creating a beautiful canvas of songs reaching out to those seeking engagement with a record.
Nine original compositions grace the ten track selection with the odd one out being a cover of The Smiths classic ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’. Sarah’s version is a sublime offering and it fits in well with the general mood of the album. In fact there are one or two other songs which blend in less than her take on the works of Morrissey and Johnny Marr. The most profound of these is the ballsy ‘Tell That Devil’ which while working well, falls out of line with the real treasures buried into the content of DREAM COUNTRY.
This album release sees Sarah free of any label constraint and the enthusiasm for the project is far from hidden in the explicitly explained well packaged CD version. Any fear that the package may exceed the substance is quickly allayed with the outer presentation proving a useful aid in its artistic grandeur. An astrological approach to wrapping up all your dreams, hopes and philosophy has proved a successful path for Sarah and barriers to engagement with her dreams are nowhere to be seen.
|Nashville in the Round in Birmingham|
If you’re seeking a common thread then look no further than ‘Wandering Star’, ‘Starry Eyes’, ‘Halley’s Comet’ and ‘Stargazer’ and you should get the drift. The last of these is billed as the bonus track and it lives up to that name with its blissful quality. Earlier in the record we are introduced to a more terra firma theme as Sarah embraces the beauty of Wyoming with her homage piece ‘Where Cowboys Ride’. Another geographical take on what forms Sarah’s idyllic experiences exists in the track ‘Montmartre’ housing the love she has for France’s capital and its eternal romantic appeal. The soft feel to this and many of the other outstanding tracks give the album a luxurious lining, all adding up to a record rich in the delights of life’s tender moments.
Although Sarah has had a degree of success in her US home within the confines of the mainstream country music industry, this album is a serious tilt at the UK and included in the track listing is the song ‘Anchor’, complete with a Cornish influence and a writing contribution from Sam Palladio. A key promotional track completes this brief song analysis with a nod to the endless appeal of Sarah gliding the sound in a lounge jazz direction with the sultry and temptress-like number ‘You Take Me All the Way’.
The genuineness, honesty and classy way in which Sarah Darling has approached this record make it stand out from a crowd. DREAM COUNTRY has only the agenda of one artist using the tools at her disposal to explore the most personal of feelings. The extent to which you buy into her ideal will determine where it resides in your listening hierarchy. There are few obstacles to prevent this from being high.