Christine Tobin's Romance & Revolution
Christine Tobin (v, p); Phil Robson (g); Dave Whitford (b); Thebe Lipere (perc); Steve Arguelles (d)
Recorded - no dates given
Tobin's development as an artist as has been quite remarkable in its speed and in consistency. Consistency both in terms of the rate of development, and in the quality and production of her albums. There is no striving for something new for the sake of it, and the six recordings made under her own name all run sequentially to show a logical development from the previous with no sudden departures that makes you wonder where or why the change, and where she is trying to lead the listener.
This latest release very much confirms this, although according to Tobin there were no immediate plans for an album at this stage; no grand plan or concept behind the project, just that the band had been gigging and were well played in and there was some studio time available so let's go in and play...And the freshness of the approach pays off handsomely. With much of the material having been tried and tested, the musician's take a relaxed and familiar route through the singer's repertoire and the delivery and arrangements are in Tobin's usual unfussy style. Succinct and direct, this album really communicates in the unique way that Christine has made her own, and the choice of material, again mixing originals with some contemporary songs works well.
The band drive along Bob Dylan's 'Shelter From The Storm' in a most satisfactory way, with Tobin able to ride convincingly a top the propulsive groove laid down by bass and percussion. Throughout the relationship between Arguelles and percussionist Lipere is secure, each contributing and yet complimenting each other to perfection and manage not just to stay out of each other way but also to allow each other plenty of space. John Martyn's 'Go Down Easy' does just that, bringing the tempo and mood down several notches, but retaining a relaxed and lazy feel. Robson's guitar solo is a model of gentle lyricism and his playing on any cut confirms his stature as a major player.
Surprising choice of material abounds with Tobin's rendition of Bessie Smith's 'Young Woman's Blues'. A neat update that brings the composition right into the present day, and proves the point that you just can’tkeep a good tune down. Christine's acknowledgement of the standard repertoire, so devastatingly stated in her Deep Song set of a couple of years ago, is again on display in a beautiful rendition of Hammerstein/Kern's 'Can't Help Lovin' That Man'.
Christine's own compositions also feature strongly and show her continuing progress as a composer of real stature, with the superb 'Brandy and Scars' and He's Not Anyone'; along with the Tobin's slight shift of emphasis in putting music to the poems of Paul Muldoon ('Horses') and Eva Sulzman in a poignantly delivered 'Muse Of Blues'. This challenge of setting somebody else's text and thoughts to music is one that the singer has not undertaken lightly and gives these poems an additional dimension with her sympathetic compositions and arrangements.
The album closes in a wholly satisfying manner with a simply stated 'Fragile Dance' in which we hear Tobin accompany herself on piano. Whether this will be something that she introduces in live performances or is a one off for the album, it does however give an insight into the creative process and perhaps a hint of how the origins of the arrangements for the other tracks have been developed from the piano stool.
As with Christine's other albums, recommended without reservation.