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Christine Tobin: Pelt review – powerful collaboration with poet Paul Muldoon

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(Trail Belle)

The Pulitzer-winning poet Paul Muldoon is fascinated by the links between poetry and song, and here he accepts an invitation from his jazz-singing, poetry-loving Irish compatriot Christine Tobin to explore those connections, in a mix of existing work and specially written lyrics. As on Tobin’s WB Yeats tribute, Sailing to Byzantium, there’s a patience and clarity to her handling of fine poetry, but there’s a tough, bluesy assertiveness to this album too. Zoological Positivism Blues is a clanking rocker, underpinned by a pizzicato-strings hook and slashed through by Phil Robson’s wailing guitar, and Tobin sounds almost as scornfully sardonic as 60s Dylan on the Randolph Hearst-themed San Simeon. But the most spacious episodes bring the best out of the players and the words, as Gareth Lockrane’s flute winds through the breakup song After Me, and Liam Noble’s piano shadows the slow-moving title track (“Now rain rattled / the roof of my car / like holy water / on a coffin lid”) as Tobin shifts from sonorous resignation to an upwardly swerving wonderment. Muldoon and Tobin make a powerful team.

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