Review of 'Are You Listening' from The Rocking Magpie...
"I let the music do the talking and got a very pleasant surprise with the opening track Ophelia (I Walked Away) as Sarana’s warm and clear vocals take centre stage on a Folk Rocker that owes more to British bands like Fairport Convention and River City People than any of the American Alt. Bands I expected to hear; yet Brandt’s distinctive guitar playing is Alt. Country through and through.
That slinky low slung guitar weaves its way through the cinematic second song Judgement Day; and this time it’s Brandt who takes lead vocals and memories of not just Buffalo Springfield but Whiskeytown instantly sprang to mind; although the duo actually sound nothing like either.
The couple more or less take turns throughout on lead, with the other proving the perfect foil on harmonies with Sailing Away (Port 1 & 2) featuring some very fine guitar playing, that Tom Petty would have been proud to produce and on I Wish I Knew the guitarist goes acoustic as Sarana delicately delivers a beautiful love song. that will break your heart.
The oddest thing here is actually Sarana’s violin playing which is majestically understated throughout; but on No Such Thing as Goodbye and Everything’s Falling when it seamlessly glides in you know you are in the company of an expert player; yet neither she nor Billy ever allow their dextrous playing to overshadow the power and intensity of their songs and stories.
The title track Are You Listening? closes the album and the couple’s unusual musical influences all come together on an almost Psychedelic Alt. Folk song that conjures up images of Sarana in a floaty dress dancing around candles as Brandt transcends himself into Richard Thompson-George Harrison hybrid.
My favourite track here is another left field Alt. Something mixture, with Sarana again taking lead on the multi-layered Ghost of My Love; another delightful Folk-Rocker Deluxe that has me tapping my toes again, as I type these words and just may be the Soundtrack to the Third Summer of Love."
Review of 'Are You Listening' from PhilMac.com
"The album features well crafted songs that glisten with spirit as both Billy and Sarana alternate lead vocals and songs. The mix works incredibly well and almost feels like a “songwriters in the round” session.
Brimming with confidence, “Are You Listening?” moves seamlessly from song to song. The opening track, “Ophelia” sets the pace for the whole album. It’s a haunting melody, perhaps inspired by her namesake in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” that features Sarana’s lighter lead vocals with Billy’s earthy harmonies offsetting, but complementing hers. They continue to swap lead and harmony throughout the album.
“Judgment Day” covers territory similar to what Leonard Cohen mined on some of his last recordings. It’s not as bleak as his, but it’s definitely the grittiest song on the album.
It’s kinda fun to hear both artists share their influences throughout the album. Brandt never steers too far from his folk/rock roots of The Byrds, Gram Parsons/The Flying Burrito Brothers, and The Grateful Dead, to name a few. Sarana has both classical, rock, and Celtic influences to draw upon, and they push each other to leave those influential comfort zones.
I personally like what was done with “Sailing Away,” a medley of two separate tracks pushed together in the best George Martin compromise!
Sarana’s violin provides warmth to “Everything’s Falling” and “Can’t Let Go.”
There are so many great songs to choose from, but the artwork itself, put together by Sarana, is both mystical and interesting!
“Are You Listening?” ponders the question. My advice is to say, “yes” and determine for yourself that this album is in an elite category!"
Review of 'Are You Listening' from TimMusic...
"Billy Brandt & Sarana VerLin‘s latest winter air crispy clear, yet full of souls clouded w/truth shrouded … night-time-of-your-life record, “Are You Listening?” leaves a strong song-seeking soul no choice but to say …. I will follow. While both easily swinging high and hard, the mad fling of “Ophelia” and ‘I shoulda done better’ reckoning, mando/guitar light/dark hooked “Judgement Day” begin the record … at our end brought low, in a way … whether found at will or at mercy of fate … for redemption, it might be too late. Then there are the many splendors and dead enders of love … “Everything’s Falling” is a painfully slow building, catchy look at romance dropped, once caught but now for naught … tryin’ to learn a lesson alone, feeling on the down low. “Can’t Let Go” … is a love-hate driven, fast flyin’, high harmonizin’ song, heart-hooked on a flawed feeling, but like Sarana’s sweet violin here … you hafta say yes to this one, not no. “No Such Thing as Goodbye” just tries to keep moving on, yet open to take everyone old, … and make them (and us) not fold, but new again. And we end being asked … “Are You Listening” … a wide open windy, world music folk fable, mini-symphonized and eco-chantized … taking the high note across the water, in search of our top shelves needing to hear life’s falls …to take us higher and higher. Of course, this tuneful treasure chest of old chunks of spent coal souls is richly rewarded by the record’s sharp diamond all-day, folkussed sound, hard cut instinctively easily by the elite Detroit Americana band, including John Holkeboer on steady bass, Chris Degnore leadin’ the guitar starworks and Todd Glass bringin’ the big beat. Hey these looks at the dark-edges-of-the-unsun shots into our selves ain’t for the faint of heart … but before you get it together, sometimes you gotta fall apart."
Review of 'Bats & Butterflies' from amazon.com...
"Bats and Butterflies" is a very pleasant surprise, it is one of those CDs that improves with every listening. Sarana VerLin's folk rock style owes more to Fairport Conventions Celtic stylings than the styles of the Byrds or Dylan. Of the twelve cuts eight are self penned, three are instrumentals and one is a cover of the aforementioned Fairports "Crazy Man Michael" which she delivers in her breathy alto that recalls not at all Sandy Denny's original soprano. Of the originals the standouts are the title track and "Winter Warriors" (IMHO). A multi instrumentalist Sarana plays guitar, violin, synthesizer and some percussion as well handling the singing tasks. All in all this is a fine effort worthy of your consideration.
"Beautiful husky voice, melodious and with the depth that is lacking in so many of the current generation of singers." — Jim HIll, Jango Music
"Professional sounding, talented writing and performances - catchy and to the point." — Walt Ackley, Music Times
"Verlin's a jaw-droppingly sweet fiddler." — Brett Callwood, Detroit News
"Sarana is magic, the most engaging talent to surface in this town in ages." — Dennis Loren, Goldmine
"...An extremely gifted and long-time player in the music industry, Sarana VerLin, offering an astounding song that touches all kinds of emotions called 'Today'...should have our listeners deep in contemplation by the song’s end." — Brian Bell, Women's Radio
"Sarana...from classical to coffee houses to rock and roll...her violin has played it all" — Lydia Jay, Phase Two
"An absolutely beautifully played and sung set of songs. Soulful, tender, feisty - and always immensely listenable."" — amazon.com
"The total effect is music that gallops, rocks, cries heartfelt blues and from time to time soars off eerily into the realm of science fiction movie soundtracks." — Robin Watson, The Detroit News
"Led by violinist VerLin (who) showed a wide variety of musical ideas...VerLin reminds one of Debbie Harry because of her singing ability and movement on stage.." — Douglas Priestap, Performance
Multi-talented...positively compelling. My pop nerve is tingled most by Enough Said" — UK Trouser Press
"Magical vocals and electric violin..." — Detroit Metro Times
"Filled with licks of European art rock.." — Mike Duffy, The Detroit Free Press
"Sarana sings...Detroit doesn't have a Renaissance Center for nothing..." — UK Rock Scene
"Electric-violin-playing female singer who has one of the best voices in Detroit rock" — Sydney Dramsdowne, The Detroit News
"...some long forgotten emotional dance-powerful in its subtle holdback." — Steve B., youtube