Sarah Darling – Darling EP
Sarah Darling loves the UK so much she married a Brit, which has forged a connection in turn with British country fans. An assured performer, her songs have marvellous melodies to which she does justice.
She has rolled out five tracks in recent months which have been collected on a five-track EP. Waves sounds like its title, with washes of piano and an undulating melody about love and ‘the ocean between us’. The vocal and the arrangement are both gorgeous.
The final song is Get To Me, the ‘focal track’ which is driven by a funky guitar part and a radio-friendly chorus. As with the Miranda Lambert album, it makes me think of Sheryl Crow. Sarah wrote the song with her producers Cameron Jaymes and the great Emily Shackleton, who is best known for working with Carly Pearce and Lauren Alaina. Indeed, Carly and Emily co-wrote Song Still Gets Me with Gordie Sampson, another one of those songs where a song on the radio prompts a bout of reminiscin’.
Pretender has her leaving California over a sun-soaked track with some reverbing guitars and a fluttering melody, while Hungover has her lamenting ‘we’re out of time…I wish we were closer, I need some closure’. I can hear Lady A singing the hook. In fact, Sarah would make a great opener for the trio, if the chance arises.
Stephanie Quayle (mini-album)
Stephanie is another Yank who is also well known in Britain. Tim Prottey-Jones released a great duet with her called Until I Do, while her song Drinking With Dolly is a favourite among those in the know.
Her new, self-titled mini-album delivers eight songs, many gifted to her by A-list writers. The closing track Light My Way was written by Brett James, Chris DeStefano and Caitlyn Smith, which is an impressive trio. The song’s narrator is ‘letting go of hold on and holding on to letting go’, using experience to guide her future, with the light of the title coming from the bridges she burns. This is an impressive chorus from guys who have written thousands of songs and are paid to come up with new ways to put words to music.
Wild Frontier has been the biggest hit by the numbers, perhaps because Maren Morris, Ross Copperman and Shane McAnally wrote it: the metaphor is two lovers who don’t have to ‘rein the other in, there ain’t no fences way out here’. That song fits with another track, Lone Ranger, written by Stephanie and set to a great arrangement that really pops.
Similarly, The Kitchen is a thinker where a huge backbeat anchors a lyric about a place where prayers are said and ‘family traditions’ are ‘intertwined’. I also like the squealing solo which comes in just in case people have been softened by a great tune.
Hang My Hat has her look back on how she was ‘running’ to avoid being ‘fenced in’ until she met her ‘cool drink of water’ on whose heart she can hang her hat. It’s a wonderful country-pop tune with sensitive production, which is perfect for the imagined demographic. Stephanie wants to learn everything about her new beau By Heart in a song of that title which sounds a bit like Dan + Shay sung by Mackenzie Porter.
The wedding song We Buy Gold leapt out at me when I first heard it. The world changes all the time, sure, but people still get married and buy engraved rings for one another. I Want The World For You sets up a song full of smiles, sunshine, hope and peace. It’s the sort of song the Nashville cast would sing and it’s nice and gentle, like much of this mini-album.