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Tara MacLean – ‘Sparrow’ review

It’s common place for films and TV shows to release soundtracks but Canadian singer-songwriter Tara MacLean is paving the way for books to do the same. Following on from the release of her best-selling memoir ‘Song of the Sparrow’ (read our review), MacLean has released ‘Sparrow’, an accompanying soundtrack that sees the artist reimagining her most recognisable songs and sharing a selection of new material. The 10-track set perfectly complements ‘Song of the Sparrow’ and serves as a Greatest Hits of sorts as MacLean finds her stride in the next phase of her successful career.

Opening with ‘Sparrow’, the title and one of the songs that was released prior to the album, the album gets off to a very strong start. Lyrically, MacLean is at her most powerful on this autobiographical track as she lets the listener into her life and she emphasises the healing that can come with forgiveness. The luscious instrumentation provides the perfect nest for MacLean’s clear and affecting voice to soar. The other two new tracks on the record are ‘Lay Here in the Dark’, an atmospheric song about waiting out the dark times, and ‘Last Kiss’, an emotive tribute penned about the death of MacLean’s younger sister Shaye. Both songs will hit you in the heart, and that’s what MacLean has always done best.

The other seven songs on the album are reimagined versions of songs that fans will be very familiar with. I’m always nervous when an artist re-records songs that have been out there for a long time, but I needed have worried in this instance. MacLean brings wisdom and experience to each of the songs, adding an edge that wasn’t there in the original recordings and in the process giving each a new meaning. The first song to be reimagined is ‘If I Fall’, arguably the most recognisable song from MacLean’s catalogue. Originally appearing on 2000’s ‘Passenger’, the song – which MacLean admits in her book she always thought of as ‘bubblegum’ – is given a deeper bed of instrumentation to allow the lyrics more room and MacLean’s voice to explore them more thoroughly. With her life story in mind, ‘If I Fall’ becomes the ultimate survivor’s song rather than a throwaway would-have-been romantic drama theme tune, which was its original intention.

‘If I Fall’ paves the way for a deeply engaging listen as MacLean sprinkles more of her magic on songs that have been in my life (and the lives of her fans) for some time. ‘That’s Me’ is transformed from an honest confessional to a bold statement about knowing who you are, while ‘Let Her Feel the Rain’ sees MacLean taking back her power from the men who have taken advantage of her, her voice a tower of strength with every lyric. ‘Divided’ sounds a little more bluesy in its instrumentation with a little French twist, proving to be even more stirring than the original record. ‘Evidence’ is no longer about a woman dealing with her trauma, but owning it and proving that the only way you can truly find freedom is walk through the pain.

The highlight on the record is ‘Things Outstanding’, a song that appeared on MacLean’s third album ‘Wake’. Honestly, it’s a song I’ve never particularly paid too much attention to but this version is simply stunning. Rawer than the original version, the song explores feelings of regret and unfinished business but this time from a woman who’s lived quite the life and had an opportunity to reflect. It’s truly magnificent.

The album comes to a close with ‘Silence’, the title track from MacLean’s debut record. The song is as haunting as the original but the production is more sumptuous. Like much of the production on the record, it gives MacLean’s voice the space to explore its range and that in turn allows her to find new emotion to convey. If you’ve read the book, and you know MacLean’s story, you can’t fail to be moved by this jaw-dropping new version of the song.

‘Sparrow’ is a gift for long-time fans of MacLean’s and a fantastic introduction for those fans just finding out about her now thanks to the success of her book. These songs take on new meanings and having found out the stories behind many of them thanks to the book, you’ll appreciate them with a new depth. MacLean has always been an artist that doesn’t shy away from laying everything out there but on ‘Sparrow’ she’s the rawest she’s ever been, and the most confident I’ve ever heard her.

Track list: 1. Sparrow 2. Lay Here in the Dark 3. If I Fall (Sparrow Version) 4. That’s Me (Sparrow Version) 5. Let Her Feel the Rain (Sparrow Version) 6. Things Outstanding (Sparrow Version) 7. Last Kiss 8. Divided (Sparrow Version) 9. Evidence (Sparrow Version) 10. Silence (Sparrow Version) Record label: turtlemusik Release date: 31st March 2023 Buy ‘Sparrow’ now

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Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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It’s common place for films and TV shows to release soundtracks but Canadian singer-songwriter Tara MacLean is paving the way for books to do the same. Following on from the release of her best-selling memoir ‘Song of the Sparrow’ (read our review), MacLean has...Tara MacLean - 'Sparrow' review