Album Review : Darlinghurst (self-titled debut album)

Review by Peter Coates –

Released – 24th Sept 2021

Darlinghurst have created a fresh sound in the Australian country sphere that’s as accessible as it is unique. Grounded in refined song writing, with a keen ear for melody, relatable lyricism and some exceptional musical performances, the band has a broad appeal that has been reflected in the success of Darlinghurst’s releases to date.  Over the past two years the band has released four songs getting to No #1 the Music Network Countrytown HOT 50 chart, and this is the debut album, 2 years in the making. 

Darlinghurst are: Jason Resch — arguably the most successful Australian songwriter you’ve never heard of. With his modish mop and immaculate vintage suits, Jason initially looks more suited to The Rolling Stones in 1965 than a country outfit in 2021. But Jase has dedicated a big chunk of his young life to his love of country, having lived and worked in Nashville for years before recently resettling in his hometown of Melbourne.

Cassie Leopold and Pagan Newman — the ladies of Darlinghurst who were a duo long before their powerful harmonies forged the foundation of this new quartet. Wait until you hear these voices together – a force of nature, technically unrelated but inseparable sisters in life and song.

Matt Darvidis — the new kid on the block. A prodigious guitarist, and quality singer, he was the missing link.

In short, this is high quality commercial country pop-rock, based on the interplay of four quality singers with some great harmonies and shared lead vocal duties, with sharp catchy tunes that are immediate in their impact on the listener.

The album kicks off with So Long So Long which has a great dual guitar opening, with a Footloose guitar sound, some crisp off-beats in the verse, and a ridiculously catchy chorus.  Cassie does the lead vocal honours here, and shows off a considerable range and a clear pure tone that fits perfectly.

We then roll on to Where Do We Go (another #1 hit) which sees Matt Darvidis show he is not just a talented guitarist with a great lead vocal delivery as well as smashing out multiple guitar lines through the track.  This has all the hallmarks of some of the “modern country” acts which can achieve such cross-over between country, pop and soft rock.

Carousel is a delicate ballad with real country pedigree and a touch of bluegrass, featuring banjo and steel guitars, and a glorious lead vocal from Pagan.  The track picks up mid-song into a bubbling, banjo-driven delight, and a bit of fiddle in the mix which sits beautifully behind the voices.

There is more of a bounce to the tempo of Sorry Won’t Get You Back, and this rolls along with a mellow guitar melody aka the Eagles, with dual-female vocals providing the country to the country-rock feel. This was the band’s first release back in August 2019, and their first #1.  Unforgettable has all the qualities of one of those Country superstars from Nashville, whether Carrie Underwood, Dan & Shay or Little Big Town, with a hugely commercial melody, lead vocals from Jason, and all 4 voices combining to create what is a pretty unique sound for an Australian country music act.

There is more of a band feel to the guitars and rhythm section that kicks off Picture Frame, and there is an expressive undercurrent in the steel guitar that provides the atmosphere behind the multi-layered voices, which blend seamlessly through the different elements of the track.  Matt’s guitar work here is divine – really restrained but full of character.  

The band starts to cut loose with Hangman, another one with all four voices involved, and a real energy, that owes more to The Go Gos or The Bangles than country music, and the middle-eight is a cracker that powers back into the last round of the chorus, which features a bunch of striking harmonies that really pop.   Matt takes the lead again on Genevieve which is another beautiful ballad with an urgent shuffling drum pattern that gives the track some dynamic textures to balance the clarity of the clean vocals, angelic harmonies and soft keyboard sounds.

An accapella explosion hits hard with Unfaithful before it races off into a rollicking banjo-driven journey again featuring the trademark harmonies behind Jason’s lead vocal.  Another exciting mid-section rolls into some intricate banjo work before a return to the chorus and close.  The more I hear of the record, the more impressive the sheer class of the four singers, and their ability to deliver such a variety of harmonies, whether 2, 3 or four-part, and this supports the PR comment of “their voice’s blending together in sumptuous, layered harmonies creating a fifth voice – Darlinghurst.”

Gotta Go Rodeo is a blast of a track, guitar-driven and testosterone-fuelled, with the two ladies delivering the lyrics with the sass and sway of arena-stars!  This will be a riot live without a doubt!  A gritty guitar riff leads into a straight-up country-rocker with Cassie and Pagan again sharing the lead duties of Bad Things, their contrasting voices then combining in the chorus as part of the really easy harmonies which the band appear able to deliver effortlessly.

Everyone’s good mate Shannon Noll drops in to help Pagan out on You Stopped Making Sense which closes the album with a smoky late-night burner, showing such warmth and texture in her vocals, and more glorious harmonies in the chorus.  The second verse duet is all class, and the next chorus takes the harmonies to an altogether different level, and the ad-libbing in the background is crazy-good from Pagan.

Where Darlinghurst goes from here is anyone’s guess, but Jase, Cass, Pagan and Matt know exactly where they hope this will all lead.  “The dream is to get to Nashville,” says Pagan.

Darlinghurst will also be hitting the road for a string of show dates as follows – subject to any COVID-related restrictions:

  • Friday 12th November – Groundwater Country Music Festival – Gold Coast, QLD
  • Thursday 25th November – The Tourist Hotel – Queanbeyan, NSW 
  • Saturday 27th November – Country Rocks Festival – Canberra, NSW 
  • Wednesday 19th January – Moonshiners, Tamworth, NSW 
  • Friday 21st January – West leagues Club -Tamworth, NSW 
  • Thursday 17th March – Lizottes – Newcastle, NSW 
  • Friday 25th March – Centro CBD – Wollongong, NSW

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