The music is full of personality and a story in the making of the album that is worth telling, and indeed hearing time and time again.

Peccadillo PD00151921

Sarah L. King (vocals); Jim Watson (piano & keyboards); Laurence Cottle (electric bass); Jeremy Brown (double bass); Ian Thomas (drums); James McMillan (flugelhorn); Chris Traves (trombone); Claire Martin & Ian Shaw (additional vocals)

This debut album from Sarah L. King is like a breath of fresh air. Almost impossible to pigeonhole with a plethora of influences and genres that are all thrown into the mix that is Fire Horse.

A cursory listen to any of the 12 songs presented here and King’s pedigree is clear for all to hear. Coming from a musical family and developing her love of singing in jazz and gospel choirs as well as working with vocal coach Mike King led Sarah to honing her craft in a number of collaborations before forming her own jazz quintet and working on her solo career.

Releasing an EP of jazz standards in 2020, King has now stepped out to release her debut album and places the emphasis firmly on her own original compositions. Mixed with feelings of joy and sorrow, Sarah’s father passed away while she was writing the music for the album, the music retains an overall feeling of positivity and optimism.

King has a most endearing vocal presence, and a wonderful way of phrasing that lifts the lyrics giving them a gravitas and meaning that might otherwise be lost. Citing Karen Carpenter as an influence, a singer who I must admit to also having a liking for, Sarah takes the role of storyteller that both Carpenter and Joni Mitchell excelled at making each song very personal and inviting us the listener to share in the journey.

In addition to her vocal prowess, King also stakes a claim as being a formidable song writer and arranger. All the songs are on the album purely on their own merit, and each is compelling, and as an arranger she has the knack of knowing when she has done enough, and nothing is overwritten or cluttered. ‘Skyscapes’ is a perfect example with subtle string arrangement added by Jim Watson and beautiful flugelhorn solo that perfectly complements Sarah’s voice and the arrangement.

Another fine arrangement is on the lovely ‘Mystery Ride’ that in addition to the subtle strings by Watson and his graceful and lyrical electric piano solo, the song is greatly enhanced by the backing vocals contributed by Claire Martin and Ian Shaw. This understated use of the stellar talents of Martin and Shaw is also heard on the opening ‘Holding On To Love’ and once again bring that extra dimension to the music that lifts the entire performance.

On first hearing the album my initial reaction was that perhaps the standards did not sit well within the overall concept and programming of the album. After listening to the album a few more times I had to concede that I was wrong. King’s exceptional versions of ‘Devil May Care’ with its deep sense of swing and swinging and inventive scatting form the vocalist along with the elegant and poignant ‘Stolen Moments’, and an exquisite ‘Lush Life’ were an integral part of the Sarah L. King persona.

And that is what makes this album such a delight. The music is full of personality and a story in the making of the album that is worth telling, and indeed hearing time and time again.