''The ever changing weather suits my restlessness:'' Dark and at times radical the first thing that sends shivers down the spine on a first record in far too long from Ireland's greatest jazz singer is the uilleann pipes of David Power on 'Loch Glinne,' a piece that later returns equally evocatively further on in this 9-track album. Later its droning soulfulness is set against wordless vocalising. ''Fish in the barrel'' is the first metaphorical conceit in words to roll from the mouth of Christine Tobin as a conversational response returns from Power against the lapping piano accompaniment of Steve Hamilton and viola for the lower tonal resonance of Cora Venus Lunny.
Tobin specialises in the poetic whether in the past inspired by the work of Leonard Cohen, Brian Wilson or most meaningfully her own Paul Muldoon-esque erudite sense of a lyric. Completing the line-up here is guitarist Phil Robson who takes a back seat in early passages of the album but makes his presence felt later more.
Tobin has been back living in Ireland since the disaster of the pandemic when she and Robson left America for Roscommon. Panoramic with a huge wisdom to both the lyrical expansionism and the sense of song within an instrumental vista the album is full of delightful artifice and a turn down the lamp storytelling sense of song outdoors in the landscape of Ireland. 'Mullach na Sí' is the most moving of the traditional pieces (this piece isn't jazz at all) harnessing the glide and pitch bending shamanism of the pipes that sees Power once again stealing the show as the pipes often do in Irish traditional music when the power of the dirge and a heartfelt lament that stops being a lament is most needed and when the hope of Tobin's eidily-eidily vocalese by the end adds light and life.
Tobin knows how to harness traditional Irish music and jazz better than most and it is a natural fit no matter how differently arrived at. Recorded last August at a residential recording studio at Moate in County Westmeath, Tobin sings about the natural world, its hares and crows, sedges and heather where on the song named for the former coupling the creaking of a clock and brutal woodlands are captured on the most avant garde track of all these blissfully challenging songs. Into the art of the unknowable witchcraft of song venture there dear reader. Robson plays a Frisellian dreamscape to perfection in the introduction to 'Sedges and Heather' before veering off stylistically. 'July' at the end is a rolling pastoral and a hymn to the evening sky. Pick of the trad tracks is 'Callow.' Nothing short of a masterwork - Tobin's best original work in a long and distinguished career inspired all over again. Out on 3 March. Christine Tobin photo: press
Touring to John Field Room, National Concert Hall, Dublin 1 March; Dolans, Limerick city 2 March; Triskel, Cork city 3 March; Town Hall, Westport, Co. Mayo 4 March; National Opera House, Wexford 8 March; The Concert Hall, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny 9 March; Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal 10 March; The Dock, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim 11 March and Glór, Ennis, Co. Clare 18 March.