Donna Marie - This World
(DM Records DM001, available from her Myspace page)
Last year Donna Marie released her "Paint The Sky" EP, which instantly became a favourite of mine and infact I voted it single of the year. The reasons were simple: great songs, well written with a pop edge, and lovely guitar playing and vocal performances that made me wonder just how long it would take before someone signed her up and did the decent thing. After all, if the press can hype up people like Duffy, then there's surely a place for many other good female singer songwriters, you know?
With an album due later this year, Donna Marie's done the sensible thing and released the new six track EP on her own label, therefore cutting out the middleman and meaning that you can get it direct from her Myspace page, and only pay the cost plus postage, which seems a very reasonable amount too when I ordered it. Enclosed in a CD single case and professionally made sleeve and indeed a replica of the CD cover on the CD itself, and it just smacks of quality production all round. Also, now she has a full band on board with Mon handling the bass and Greg Morgan on drums, it allows for a bigger space and production to flow. So now to test that theory out, give it a spin and go through the six tracks.
First off is the title track "This World" where Donna Marie goes slightly green. It has plenty of catchy pop sensibilities all wrapped up inside a soft centre of her vocals, asking questions about the world, losing her faith and questioning that all the money in the world won't replace the time we have. The chorus is just infectious and has a good message contained within that "there's time enough for everyone". Definitely the bass guitar and drums enhance to her lead, and sounds sumptuous. Next up is the live set closer and favourite "Goodtime Girl". Here Pat Clarke on harmonica does a grand job on making the song sound a little more countryesque, and I kept thinking of the Dixie Chicks when I heard it done like this (no bad thing to my ears). What hasn't been changed is the fact that there's a catchy hook and chorus throughout, helped by the drums which really give it a bit more oomph. Got to love that chorus line "Steal your heart away from you / cos she's a goodtime girl" which really underpins the whole thing. It builds up nicely to the closing part as well, and sounded like everyone enjoyed themselves too, always important.
Another live set staple, "Perfect Fit" is next up. It certainly sounds good being enhanced with the guitars (especially those by Pete Mason) and fuller production (an acoustic rough cut was on her free "No Frills" EP at the back end of last year) although the only thing I would say is that the backing vocals during part of the chorus just don't seem to be such a perfect fit, as it were. Nonetheless it's a gorgeous pop love song (with a line like "You're the one I need, you know that I suit you", say no more!) and isn't that how it should be eh? From here on in, it's a more reflective feel, and "Home" certainly fits that bill. With Harry Elsby on backing vocal and some lovely cellos from Beth Carlyle, it has room to breathe and really gives you that feeling that you're on your way home from somewhere not so near, perfect for my long distance train travels that I sometimes do. "On the open road, there's a sign there for me, till it leads me home" she wistfully sings, and it just sounds beautifully tender until the closing part which has a nice blend of quicker pace.
"Shooting in the Dark" is another recent live addition, and it's here where Donna Marie's vocals really do start to come into their own. With a slightly quieter and late night feel, this sounds beautifully romantic and soft all at the same time. "Push it from your mind / open up your heart / then you see you're shooting in the dark" is just a great line to hook yourself into, and that just blends nicely at the end of the chorus to really soften the whole thing. It's handled with the gentle touch and sensitively done too, and just gets you in the right mood for the closer, "Faraway". One thing to say about this song: it's utterly gorgeous. In fact, it's pushing "Make You Mine" as my favourite of hers, which says a lot. It's a wonderful love song, which just has the right mood of softness and acoustic guitar, and throughout the lyrics are just wishing that the person in love isn't so far away from here. You can hear her heart as she sings "When you're not by my side / I'm dying here inside / tonight" and it really shows a feeling of love and wanting to be with someone special. And we've all had that at one time or another. It may be quite short, but it's also sweet, to the point and closes the whole thing with a feeling of gentle softness.
In terms of the production values, Donna Marie and Mon doing the production and mixing and engineering between them works well. It sounds clear but not over produced, it also sounds lush without being too sickly as well. Having a core three piece band is also meaning that the songs are pretty tight in terms of their performance, and if a recent live performance is anything to go by, I would say that the hard work in producing this is paying off wonderfully well for her. It really frustrates me that there's many talented artists such as her who don't get the breaks yet are so much better than a heck of a lot of the rubbish the public endures.
So, redress the balance a bit, buy her EP, and listen with an open mind and an open heart. And you'll grow to absolutely adore it and be excitedly awaiting the album like a child at Christmas. Honestly, it's a really good release and you'd be daft to miss out.
Warren's rating: 91%