I have have only had a copy of Christine Tobin’s latest album in my posession for about thirty hours, which means that I’ve not had enough time to consider its merits – and they are mostly merits -properly. However, even at this stage I find myself in igreement with this review that appeared in The Irish Times on the June the 25th this year.
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CHRISTINE TOBIN & LIAM NOBLE
Trail Belle Records
Keeping it simple as well as good ia one of the most difficult things in any art. And it’s a sign of maturity when someone pulls it off as superbly as Christine Tobin does, with the significant help of pianist Liam Noble., in this visit to one of the most celebrated pop albums of all time: Carole Kings Tapestry (1972).
It’s also a surprise. As a singer and songwriter, Tobin has forged a strikingly original voice out of diverse jazz, folk and classical influences, and her albums have mostly featured her own richly suggestive writing. On the rare times she has done material by, say, Dylan or Leonard Cohen, it is reworked and transformed. But she takes the generally uncomples vision of King’s Tapestry – songs of love, loneliness, relationships, occasionally allegorical – and treats it with compelling, visceral directness.
The original album is bound up with memories of Tobin’s sister, who died last year and to whom the new one is dedicated, so in a sense it’s a conduit for Tobin’s feelings about those memories and a way of keeping them alive.
Personal resonances aside, there is the sheer quality of Tobin’s performance and the collaboration with Noble that makes this album so special. There’s a kind of alchemy at work, particularly in how she uses her warmly distinctive voice, malleable, poised phrasing and impeccable intonation to get inside the material and make it personal. Eve the most well-known songs (You’ve Got a Friend, Home Again, So Far Away, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow) have their intimate, one-to-one feelings, tender, sensual and vulnerable, renewed and intensified.
More assertive songs are similarly absorbed and refreshed. It’s Too Late and the limited I Feel the Earth Move are delivered with authority and plenty of oomph, while the yearning, gospel-flavoured Way Over Yonder and the allegorical Tapestry unite a sense of otherness with the feel of life lived.
Noble’s role as accompanist and soloist combines the individual and the apt so well that it’s impossible to conceive of the album without him; the folk ballad Smackwater Jack, with no vocal, is his solo feature.
Incidentally, the original album’s Where You Lead is left out: it’s servile lyrics don’t chime with how women, rightly, see themselves now.
I know that I have said in the past the Christine’s work has been largely passed ove in the country of her birth. I’m happy to say that it now appears that she is beginning to get the recognition she deserves there.