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Christine Tobin: A Thousand Kisses Deep

Bruce Lindsay By

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A Thousand Kisses Deep brings together Christine Tobin's voice, Leonard Cohen's songs, a bunch of Premier League musicians and superb arrangements. What's not to like? Nothing. There's absolutely nothing not to like.

Tobin is blessed with a distinctive, expressive, voice. She's also an artist who pursues her own vision with an admirable determination—and who isn't afraid to risk comparison with some of the finest writers of the modern era. That vision has seen her re-imagining Carole King's classic album in Tapestry Unravelled (Trail Belle, 2010) and setting the words of William Butler Yeats to her own music on Sailing To Byzantium (Trail Belle, 2012). Cohen is another of Tobin's loves—she made this recording to ..."share my passion for his words."

Tobin's passion is shared by the musicians, too. Phil Robson's guitar choice is crucial to the mood of each song—gentle acoustic playing on "You Know Who I Am" or "Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye," full-on electric rock riffage on "Story Of Isaac" or folky rhythms on "Take This Waltz." Dave Whitford and Adriano Adewale generally keep their rhythms subtle, playing a key supporting role, but each man can open up with some powerful grooves—as evidenced by their playing on "Suzanne" or "Story Of Isaac."

Of all the songs, "Suzanne" gets the most radical re-imagining. Cohen's original creates an intriguing picture of the titular character, but the relationship seems ambiguous at best—his live 21st century versions are even more downbeat. Tobin's take on things—which she and Robson surround with a cheery afrobeat-cum-zydeco arrangement—makes the whole thing sound like terrific fun, tea, oranges and all. No hesitation, no second thoughts—this Suzanne seems like a serious party animal, despite what the words might be saying.

"Anthem" is stripped bare: just Tobin's voice and the piano of Gwilym Simcock, who's also responsible for the arrangement. When she sings "That's how the light gets in" for the final time her voice lightens, almost imperceptibly, and so, too, does the entire mood of the lyric. All that remains is for Simcock to close the song with 60 seconds of delicate, crystal clear, piano.

Faced with such beautiful interpretations of Cohen's songs, it's important to remember that Tobin is also a talented and original songwriter herself. That talent may well be one reason why she's such as great interpreter of others' work: she understands the process of creating a lyric, of crafting a tune, she shares an awareness of just how personal that process can be. Of course, her fellow musicians, the arrangements and that voice all help. A Thousand Kisses Deep is quite simply a marvellous collection of Cohen songs.

Track Listing: Famous Blue Raincoat; Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye; Tower Of Song; Take This Waltz; Suzanne; Anthem; You Know Who I Am; A Thousand Kisses Deep; Everybody Knows; Story Of Isaac; Dance Me To The End Of Love.

Personnel: Christine Tobin: vocals; Phil Robson: guitar; Dave Whitford: double bass; Adriano Adewale; percussion; Nick Smart: trumpet (11); Huw Warren: accordion (1, 4, 5, 9); Gwilym Simcock: piano (6).

Title: A Thousand Kisses Deep | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Trail Belle

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