Sarah Darling Winter Wonderland EP
Just to avoid any confusion let's be clear, this EP combines 4 tracks from an EP released in 2013 with 4 brand new recordings and yet is still available for less than a £5. So even if you had purchased the original EP there is no reason not to add some extra Sarah Darling sparkle to your Christmas!
Reviewing a Christmas EP needs a different set of criteria, as these tracks will only ever be listened to for a limited period each year the key requirement is that they somehow evoke that feelings of Christmas and this EP has it in buckets from the stunning cover shot through to the sheer quality of the contents. Christmas records can occasionally be more off putting than a 3 day old mince pie, knocked off by artists fulfilling a contractual obligation and really showing little interest in the content, thinking that a few Christmas bells or a "Ho Ho Ho" will cover over any cracks - there is absolutely none of that here with each track crafted to bring a little joy into your festivities.
"Santa Baby" could almost have been recorded in the same nightclub that "You Take Me All The Way" evoked on "Dream Country". with a dreamy Jazz style delivery over mainly bass, drums and piano although there are gorgeous strings. Next up is "White Christmas" with syrupy strings that could have been lifted from a 1940's black & white, movie, you can almost feel the snow falling.
"Silent Night" is surely the best yet simplest of the Christmas carols and this version you could almost imagine Sarah at home gathering round a family piano to deliver. It builds up with some additional percussion and a cello but really it is Sarah's crystal clear annunciation that steals the show.
"Winter Wonderland" again has the feel of an old time movie in the intro, before opening out into a slightly kooky version with eccentric percussion and synth like strings, it is charmingly off kilter with an unique guitar running through it that made me smile.
A deliciously warm piano intro takes us into "The Christmas Song", it again has the sound of a small jazz trio about it.
Perhaps the seeds for "Dream Country" may have subliminally been planted when Sarah sat down to record this sumptuous yet simple version of Joni Mitchell's "River". The absolutely beautiful way that the line "teach my feet to fly" is delivered is worth the price of the EP alone, truly glorious.
"I'll Be Home For Christmas" is of course not quite the jolly song it appears at first glance, it's written from the perspective of a soldier who won't be coming home and can only be there "In my dreams". It was originally banned in the UK by the BBC in case it damaged morale hopefully they won't be banning this version!
Our final burst of Yuletide joy comes with "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and for his we have the full string quartet.
The best way to look at this EP is to accept it as the little Christmas cracker that it is and look forward to the sold out launch show at St Pancras Old Church.
Available to pre-order as of Fri 17th November