Christine Tobin and Liam Noble: Unraveling Tapestry
One song from the Carole King original, "Where You Lead," doesn't appear on Tapestry Unravelled. Why is that? Tobin's is confident about her decision: "Well, there were two tracks that didn't grab me in the same way as the rest. One was 'Smackwater Jack,' which is stylistically pretty different and 'Where You Lead,' which just didn't resonate with me. I wanted every song I sang to really mean something to me, so because I didn't feel that way about those songs I just decided not to do them."
Tobin added an original song, "Closing Time," to the album and offered Noble the chance to add one of his own. Ultimately, Noble decided against producing an original piece, deciding instead to recreate one of the tunes that Tobin had not recorded. The result is the only instrumental on the record"Smackwater Jack." "That was kind of a last minute thing," Noble says. "Originally I was going to do a sort of improvised interlude piece, and then I thought that it would be nice to do an instrumental version of something. I see 'Smackwater Jack' as a Ray Charles, Fats Domino kind of songa nod to that sort of music, which I've been thinking about lately in reference to my own playing. I half-thought that I ought to do it because it's on the original record, and half-relished doing it. The tune is quite slight, compared to many of the others, so it can be quite a tight line between playing the tune and making it obvious and trying to add something different." The pianist is also conscious of the tune's impact on the album as a whole: "I think the album needed it, as did the original album, because although it's quite a throwaway song it gives relief from the rest of the songs, it's nice to have something that's not quite so emotionally heavy."
"Closing Time" was written specifically for the album. As Tobin explains, "I was trying to summarize the feeling I think people get from listening to Tapestry. It's a finale pieceand I got the word 'Tapestry' into it as well." The title suggests that it was always intended to be the final track, but this isn't the case: "Well, I didn't originally plan it as the final track," she says, "I tried to fit it in earlier, when I was trying out different song orders. Despite the title it wasn't planned as the final tune. But it fitted perfectly at the end and didn't seem quite right anywhere else."
At the time of the interviews, the album's release date was still over a month away. But had there been any feedback from anyone involved in the original? "No, not yet," said Tobin. "I did a little bit of investigating and I got the name and address of Carole King's manager and sent a CD, but I haven't heard anything yet. I'd be over the moon to hear something nice back from Carole King, of course. If it makes enough ripples it might come to her attention." The album is being released on Trail BelleTobin's own label, which she set up specifically for this album. "It's just a name I thought up for this release. Just because it's the two of us, and my stuff tends to be more original so this is a move away. My other releases have been on Babel." Will the label continue in future? "It depends on how this album does. I certainly want to do morewe'll see."
Tobin is known for her own writing, but she does cover the work of other songwriters and the list is wide-ranging. The Great American Songbook is represented, but so too are people like Bob Dylan, John Martyn, Leonard Cohen and Rufus Wainwright. Tobin finds these songs in a variety of ways. "I've always been a Leonard Cohen fan, and since the early '90s I've had some of his songs in my repertoire and recorded quite a few of them. I love his words, I think he's a great poet, but I've changed his music around quite radically. I do some Joni Mitchell as well. They're just great songwriters and I can't resist the temptation to get my mitts on a good song."
Tobin's recording of Rufus Wainwright's "Poses"on Secret Life Of A Girl, (Babel, 2008)came about in a more unusual fashion: "I was working with Nick Smart, the trumpeter, on a tribute to Nick Drake at the end of 2005. For the live gigs, he wanted to put in a song from a more contemporary songwriter and he asked me to do 'Poses.' When I went to do my own recording, I decided I wanted to do it with my own band. [Guitarist] Phil Robson did the arrangement for it."