After seven, mostly self-penned albums on the Babel label, Tapesty Unravelled
is something of a departure for the Irish-born, UK-based singer Christine Tobin: all but one of the tunes are covers, and, for the first time, the setting is stripped down to a duo. But as on the earlier albums, Tobin weaves her signature mix of jazz and folk influences, while pianist Liam Noble ensures a high degree of "pure" jazz content.
As some will already have surmised, Tapestry Unravelled is a celebration of singer/songwriter Carole King's landmark album, Tapestry (A&M, 1971). Tobin has resequenced the tracks but left the individual songs largely in their original form. She covers all the material on King's album except for "Where You Lead" (which King stopped performing live for many years, believing the lyric was at odds with modern male/female relationships). The twelfth track, "Closing Time," is the new album's only original.
Iconic is an over used adjective, but Tapestry was such an album, particularly for women during the early 1970s, and the quality of the writing means it still has a pulse. Even in 2010, people who don't know it are sure to recognise some of King's songs, certainly "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," a hit for Aretha Franklin in 1967, and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," a hit for the Shirelles in 1961.
Tobin's early relationship with Tapestry was intense. When her older sister, Deidre, moved out of the family home for her own apartment, Christine would often listen to the album on visits to her newly independent sibling. In 2009, Deidre died, and the two sisters' enjoyment of Tapestry became for Christine emblematic of their bond. She sang "Beautiful," the opening track here, at Deidre's memorial ceremony, and live performances of the whole album, accompanied by Noble, followed some months later. Tapestry Unravelled was recorded in one day in September 2009.
Tobin and Noble allow King's lyrics and melodies to work their original mojo unencumbered by reimaginings or tricksy arrangements. Tobin's voice is, as ever, rich yet intimate, earthy yet elegant. She doesn't so much inhabit the songs as let them inhabit her. Noble, whose supple drive makes him the perfect partner in duo settingshe's also recorded excellent sets with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock (Let's Call This, Babel, 2006) and percussionist Paul Clarvis (Starry Starry Night, Village Life, 2009)is a continual pleasure, his brief but frequent solos models of concise eloquence.
Simple and heartfelt, Tapestry Unravelled is a lovely album.