Donna Marie - Paint The Sky EP

(no label, self-produced and released, available from gigs or £6.50 from Donna Marie's Myspace site)

Donna Marie has been interested in music and singing since she was a mere fifteen year old lass, so says her biography. And with a degree in music technology and the ability to produce her own songs, as well as write them, it would make perfect sense for her to actually get something released as a taster of what she can do so that word can be spread about her music. After all, it's nice to hear stuff on Myspace pages, and indeed, the samples of tracks from her own official website, but it's also really nice to have the product in your hand to listen to on a proper sound system so you can make your own mind up.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Donna Marie live in Manchester, and what I did notice was her aim for perfection when she was tuning up her guitars, to get them sounding just right as the played. That perfectionism can be infectious but it can also hold you back if you're not quite happy with something. As it turned out, Donna herself admitted that she wanted to release something earlier but wanted the sound to be good. So has she succeeded?

It's my absolute privelege to tell you that the answer to that question, and the answer of "is it actually any good" is a massive resounding yes. If you're looking for beautifully crafted indie-guitar pop music sung with a smile and with plenty of wistful leans towards the likes of Joni Mitchell, KT Tunstall and that sort of thing but adding her own take on things, then you're pretty much in the right place. Let me explain why.

The opening slide guitars to Holiday From Myself bring things in nicely. Straight from the start this song has a lovely summery feel, even though the words are actually saying how much she wants to be away from the real life mundaneness of herself and her life, needing sunshine to make it all better, and it's wrapped up in luscious guitars so that you wouldn't guess it. Vocally the performance is spot on and it allows her to express those feelings with sensitivity and poise. You've also got to love the middle guitar part too.

Make You Mine is much more stripped down and acoustic, but feels ever so intimate because of that. It is a gorgeous love song, and delivered with aplomb, telling a story of how she wants someone to be "mine" but they can't see just how they make her feel inside and how much she wants them to stay, because they should know "that she's shy". Speaking as someone who can be quite shy, the words struck a chord that for those who can't always say what they feel but really want someone lots. Absolutely gorgeous, this is, and the guitars are just really adds to the wistful and emotional feeling.

Then there's plenty of barb and a story of lost love in Sinking Deep and how you turn to alcohol and then coffee to get you through the day, sinking deep, as it were. I love the opening lines of the second verse, because it's how I feel: "It's better to have loved and lost than not all / if anyone tells me that again / I'm no longer responsible for what I do" - cos that opening phrase can be patronising and it's such a barb but delivered gently inside a wrapping of guitars and piano that just sounds right somehow. It has a good pace and feel to it too that just sounds like you could be driving along (or on the train in my case) and this taking you away.

Lastly, the title track Paint The Sky. This is stripped down acoustic, but asks questions, "Is there more to this world for an innocent girl?" and how it answers "she wasn't meant to be alone". It could almost be semi-autobiographical for plenty of women out there, and how the cry of defiance is that "I'll paint the sky any way I like". It has a mellow feel, and just seems the right way to close the EP by just taking things down a notch, with some excellent vocal work (two sets recorded in parts to get the harmonies going).

Words cannot begin to describe you how enjoyable the whole of this EP is. It's a masterwork in song writing, performance and production. Listening to this CD on my hi-fi rig, it sounded just as good as anything produced commercially, and she should be rightfully proud of herself for that. If this is the start of things to come then I can only hope that she gets a good deal with a record label, because she deserves one. This is the sort of music that gets criminally ignored. I can only hope by shouting from the rooftops just how bloody good this is that it isn't, and that if you buy her EP, buy one for you and one for a friend so you can both discover how good she is.

Warren's rating: 94%