Three yearsand a lifetimein gestation, Secret Life of a Girl is an album London-based singer/songwriter Christine Tobin spoke about when she gave an interview to AAJ in autumn 2005. At the time, Tobin was touring in support of Romance and Revolution (Babel, 2004), the sixth own-name disc she'd recorded since 1995 and, like its predecessors, a soulful and intelligently programmed mixture of originals and covers.
Secret Life of a Girl continues that tradition. There are just two covers this time, Leonard Cohen's world weary "Everybody Knows" and Rufus Wainwright's playful "Poses." The other seven tracks are Tobin originals, one with lyrics by the poet Eva Salzman, whose writing Tobin also featured on Romance and Revolution's "Muse of Blues."
Just as Tobin described it in her interview, Secret Life of a Girl is a collection of songs featuring female characters, some younger, some older. "Camille" gets inside the head of a 10 year old girl and her imagined secret world. "No Love No Thrill" describes the feelings of a grown woman who has unhappily concluded a relationship with an older man. In "Minx" a woman reveals the carapaces and emotional disguises she employs to get by. "Secret Life of a Girl" deals in more metaphorical language with these and other ideas.
The other tunes are not so gender specific, butdealing as they do with issues and situations which effect the lives of women as much as they do meneach sits well within the general concept. "Corner of an Eye" is a brilliantly woven collection of epigrams telling of life's struggles. "Dreamland" is a meditation on secret memories. Tobin's lyrics, a mixture of metaphor and real life experience, are genuinely poetic and give her songwriting a depth and richness which repeated listening enhances rather than diminishes.
Tobin is well served, as before, by a superb band of seasoned regular accompanists, including guitarist Phil Robson, pianist Liam Noble, bassist Dave Whitford and percussionist Thebe Lipere. Cellist Kate Shortt and drummer Simon Lea are the newest recruits, with whom Tobin started working live in 2005. Robson's lyrical electric guitar, an attractive blend of jazz and rock influences, is a feature of several tracks. Noble's percussive prepared piano on "Bye Bye" and solo on "Minx" are compelling contributions from a fast emerging keyboard master.
This is another rewarding collection of deep-song from a singer/songwriter who combines literate compositions with a tangible sense of the jazz life, with all its attendant passions, joys and tribulations.
Personnel: Christine Tobin: voice; Phil Robson: guitars; Liam Noble: piano and prepared piano; Kate Shortt: cello; Dave
Whitford: double bass; Thebe Lipere: percussion; Simon Lea: drums; Alex Bonney: programming (8).