I’m sure Sarah Darling and her army of loyal fans will be breathing a sigh of relief on June 7th as her long awaited album “Wonderland” finally gets released. Pushed back by three months due to the now well documented issues with the crowdfunding site Pledge Music, the thirteen tracks see Sarah working with a variety of co-writers and producers to develop her sound. She says that ” the whole concept of Wonderland was to explore a brand new world artistically and to stretch my boundaries as a writer and performer” . While the early foundations of this record were laid in the US a couple of years ago, work on it continued in London in 2018 where she spent the year co-writing and recording for the project. She says of the album “Every song tells my story, and imprints this very special time of my life, when I got to create a country album in the UK” .
And this artistic exploration she talks about is evident from the start, with the first four tracks all different from each other sonically in many ways and definitely a departure from what we have heard from Sarah in the past. Immediately we hear funky, electronic effects and a strong drum beat on the introduction to the album opener “Blue Sky”, both of which continue throughout the mid tempo track that has an etherial quality to it. A great Summer soundtrack!
Next up is the very fun, infectious ” Call Me” with its anthemic, pop vibe, again something that many would not necessarily associate with Sarah……although having previously released this as a single it was a “heads up” for us that this album was never going to be “Dream Country Part 2”!!
The variety continues on track 3, ” London Fog” which was one of my favourites on first listen. It’s jazzy undertones suit Sarah’s voice perfectly and I love the reference to her adopted home in this beautiful song about the unknown at the start of a relationship.
Then on track 4, ” A Boy Like You” I get a hint of the orient ……as you can see, this really is an album full of variety and there’s still nine songs to come!!
But don’t worry, those of you who love Sarah’s more familiar country sound have not been forgotten, there are several tracks which hark back to her musical roots including of course her new single ” A Little Bit of Rain” which is a heart breaker of a ballad using traditional country instrumentation and arrangement. Co-written with her good friends Jenn Bostic and Michael Logen the picture it paints leaps out at you and I must admit to be more than slightly obsessed with this song right now …..
Talking of co-writers, Sarah had a hand in writing all but two of the songs and has teamed up with some big names from both sides of the Atlantic, many of whom I haven’t been aware of her collaborating with before and who will have no doubt helped her experiment and grow artistically. I was particularly happy to see two of my top UK female writers, Shelly McErlaine and Jessica Sharman, among the credits…the latter cowriting ” Diamonds” which I loved from the very minute I heard Sarah debut it live at St Pancras Old Church back in December 2107 where she told us how the song is about how beauty can often come out of a difficult situation
The constant throughout this more varied album from is Sarah is her sweet and accurate vocals which have become her trademark, and what impresses me here is the versatility she demonstrates in this department. The production throughout ensures they are always to the fore, pulling the listener in to the lyrics which for me are the most important part of any song .
My favourite tracks? They are changing all the time which I think is the mark of a great album as there’s always something new catching my attention! I’ve already mentioned several which are contenders, but today it’s the album closer ” Talk About The Weather” , one of the more stripped back offerings ( love the piano and strings!) written about the awkwardness of meeting up with an ex . But ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably give you a different answer!
What Sarah Darling has given us with ” Wonderland” is still essentially a country album , as that is where her heart will always lie, and while it will no doubt appeal to those already familiar with her music it will hopefully also help expand her fanbase outside of the country community thanks to the evolution she is undergoing as an artist.
Sarah is playing several UK festivals throughout the Summer and it has just been announced that she is part of the Songwriters Circle Showcase lineup at London’s Roundhouse in June. Keep in touch with all her news at sarahdarling.com
Wonderland – Tracklisting
Blue Sky (Sarah Darling, Mathew Benbrook, Amy Lawton)
Call Me (Sarah Buxten, Matt Peters Dragstrem, Daniel Tashian)
London Fog (Sarah Darling, Raquel Cole, Jessica Campbell Waterman)
A Boy Like You (Sarah Darling, Fred Wilhelm, Peter Kipley)
Shine (Sarah Darling, Fred Wilhelm, Simon Gugala)
Light It Up (Sarah Darling, Ash Howes, Seton Daunt)
Enjoy The Ride (Sarah Darling, Mathew Benbrook, Jim Duguid)
Timelapse (Sarah Darling, Jonny Lattimer)
Fire (Sarah Darling, Pete Hammerton, Shelly Mcerlaine)
Diamonds (Sarah Darling, Jessica Sharman)
Dreams Fade Away (Jill Andrews, Trent Dabbs)
A Little Bit Of Rain (Sarah Darling, Jenn Bostic, Michael Logen)
Talk About the Weather (Sarah Darling, Million Miles, Hannah Yadi)
Review written by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)