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Sarah Darling Sarah Darling
Album: Dream Country
Label: Be Darling
Tracks: 10

This CD dropped through my letterbox at a perfect time. One of my favourite TV programmes, Nashville, has just finished its latest series and I was feeling a little deprived of good country music. No need to worry, Sarah Darling has filled the gap. Every track on "Dream Country" would sit perfectly in the TV series!

Sarah Darling is now an established star of country music having appeared at the Grand Ole Opry and the Bluebird Café on numerous occasions. She is appearing at The Bluebird again in February with one of my favourite artists, Jenn Bostic. I wish I could be there. Anyway, back to the current album. Looking at Sarah's background, you might be fooled into expecting a conventional country music offering! But no, this album is so much more. The music is heavily influenced by Nashville but also contains touches of rock, folk and even a little bit of jazz. The latter being the underlying musical theme of the rather sexy and provocative "You Take Me All The Way" with its wonderful description of "sex is just a roll on the floor." It also has a delightful trombone middle section partly in tribute to Frank Sinatra. Not an instrument that you would readily associate with country music.

Sarah has a voice that is totally at home with all these different styles of music. Never straining, she has perfect intonation and diction and most of all, genuine warmth.

Sarah has written at least half of the songs on this album, some with collaborators one of whom is Sam Palladio, Gunnar in Nashville. This particular song is entitled "Anchor" and is a tribute to what holds us together and makes us the person that we are. My anchor is my family and this track is probably my favourite on the album!

The opening track "Wandering Star" has more than a hint of Madonna in it. "Where Cowboys Ride" is a personal message of love from Sarah to Wyoming. "Tell That Devil" is a song about bad relationships and is very upbeat musically compared to most of the other songs being played here. It is a song that I imagine would go down very well when performed live. "Montmartre" is a song about Sarah's love of Paris and has that distinctive "French" sound for the intro.

I could describe each song here but I don't think it is necessary. They are all superb and I think you will gather that I think this is a terrific album. The final track "Stargazer" rounds it all off delightfully and is a song that most people will be able to relate to. The sleeve notes for this song state "Whatever your personal battle, this song is your lullaby to get through. I hope it brings encouragement."

I would have liked a couple more tracks on the album as 10 is a relatively low number these days, but Sarah is undoubtedly relying on quality rather than quantity and she has certainly achieved that!

Although the album will not be released until February 2017, it was recorded in 2016 and therefore I feel that I can justifiably place it in my personal top 3 of the albums that I have reviewed in the last twelve months. Beautiful songs beautifully played and beautifully sung. That's enough for me!

Rory Stanbridge