Thea Gilmore,
Loft Music
(Flying Sparks, 2003; Compass, 2005)

Loft Music is an album of covers from English singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore. It's a refreshing collection, containing innovative interpretations of a range of songs, taking in pop, folk and blues along the way.

Gilmore takes Neil Young's "The Old Laughing Lady" and turns it into the sort of mystical, mellow ballad that you might expect from Sarah McLachlan -- Young's poetry combined with Gilmore's hushed vocals and a minimalist arrangement work superbly together. Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" receives the opposite treatment, with a low-fi, acoustic rendition that is equally as engaging and appealing.

Pole position has to be awarded to Gilmore's delicious bluesy cover of the Great Depression-era Bing Crosby hit, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" where the acoustic accompaniment provides the perfect platform from which Gilmore can launch her swinging, sultry vocals, to a most alluring effect. Another acoustic rendition, this time of Phil Ochs' folky "When I'm Gone," is similarly well suited to Gilmore's plaintive nuances.

Elsewhere, Gilmore does a great job on the Buzzcocks' punk-rock classic "Ever Fallen in Love" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising." With both of these Gilmore is able to tap into a level of emotion quite different from the original performances, harnessing a raw beauty in each case.

With Loft Music, Gilmore has crafted an eclectic collection that is a real pleasure to listen to -- interpreting each song with due reverence and sensitivity. With a voice as sensuous as Gilmore's, one imagines this album of covers will have made 10 songwriters very happy indeed.

review by
Mike Wilson

6 October 2007

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