REVIEW: Sarah Darling – ‘Winter Wonderland’

“Although it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas” – a fairly accurate line when it comes to Christmas albums. They’ve been done so many times in so many different ways. As the years go by it becomes more and more difficult to stand out amongst the pack when it comes to a festive collection.

Now, if you’re a regular visitor to our site you’ll probably know about our admiration of Sarah Darling. With one of the most gorgeous, purest voices we have in the genre, she can do no wrong, and her new Christmas album ‘Winter Wonderland’ continues the trend. It’s a straight-down-the-middle collection of everyone’s favourite traditional classics, but in true Sarah fashion, it’s got that added bit of instrumental intricacy and a sprinkling of magic that sets it apart. Sit back with a glass of mulled wine and let it take you away!

The cheeky Christmas classic ‘Santa Baby’ opens the album, and right from the off you get a sense of the album’s class with the lovely string section and jazzy approach. Sarah’s voice has such a distinct warmth too; a perfect fit for a chilled-out Christmas album. When it comes to the likes of ‘The Christmas Song’ where the listeners will inevitably make the comparison to Nat King Cole, you damn well need to pull it off, and Sarah passes that test with flying colours.

My personal highlight of the album is the cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’, which totally brings out the goose bumps! The simplicity of the stripped-back acoustic melody just adds to the magic and puts Sarah’s dreamy vocal right at the forefront. Her delivery is just effortless and she carries such emotion with every single word. That being said, elsewhere on the album there’s no expense spared when it comes to the stunning instrumentation. You just can’t do ‘White Christmas’ without those signature violins, and they’re implemented to perfection with just the right dosage.

There’s also a unique version of my all-time favourite classic, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ – backed only by a string section, it’s as raw as it gets and so vulnerable. Spine-tingling! Sarah has also put her own twist on the title track ‘Winter Wonderland’, slowing the tempo down and making sublime use of the string section once again resulting in a much gentler, laid-back vibe in comparison to the original.

The beauty of the album is how Sarah has added her own personal touch to the classics without stripping away much of the original appeal. You can just picture snow falling outside, a burning log fire and lights on the tree; it’s the quintessential example of how to do a Christmas album with class. It’ll be the soundtrack to the festive season in our house this year without a doubt.

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan