(Trail Belle Records TBR03)
I’ve probably written enough before now about what a wonderful conveyor of poetry Christine Tobin is. I was trying to explain it to some friends and ended up using an analogy of Shakespearean actors. You know how you hear a really skilled actor reciting this Elizabethan verse that on the page looks a little impenetrable, or in the mouth of a less skilled actor sounds like gobbledegook, and you lose any awareness of it being anything but marvellous, absolutely clear modern English?
Well that is what Christine does with a lyric. She invites you right into the centre of the story. She often also manages to improve our understanding of the original, and always to shed new light on it. She did it with her own songs and with standards, she did it with Carole King’s Tapestry album and most recently she did with W B Yeats’ poetry. Now it’s Leonard Cohen’s turn, and this is a delicious selection that when it doesn’t avoid the obvious choices, presents them in a far from obvious way.
So the title tune and Anthem might be less familiar to those who haven’t been following Cohen over his whole career, but when it comes to Suzanne and Famous Blue Raincoat those oft-heard words are given fresh nuance over a substantially different groove. Raincoat rolls along at a merry pace, while Suzanne is introduced by African percussion, a funky bass line and some jubilant Zimbabwe-style ringing electric guitar. It all works just wonderfully.
The harmonies of Anthem are beautifully reworked by guest player, pianist Gwilym Simcock. The band for the other tunes comprises Phil Robson on guitar, Dave Whitford on bass, Adriano Adewale on percussion and Huw Warren on accordion. Dance Me To The End Of Love features a stylish turn from trumpeter Nick Smart.
Yep, Christine Tobin has accompanists and arrangers – Robson plays a major role here – who truly do her artistry justice. She sings so naturally; there is no affectation here, just the most sensitive of song interpretation, profound in intelligence of both the mental and emotional kind. And yet worn so lightly!
Every sensible songwriter in the world should be lining up at her door, just to find out how great their words and melodies can really sound.
A pretty perfect album. And pretty nicely recorded, too.
Categories: CD review