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Jenny Toomey | Sings the songs of Franklin Bruno - Tempting (Misra)
In which the boys from Calexico help somebody else cover songs not by themselves. Again. But the difference between this and 2002's Giant Sand 'Cover Magazine' could not be more noticable - this one is great. My experience of the work of Ms Toomey and Mr Bruno is not deep or wide but the quality of this stuff, and of the lyrics in particular, mean that I'm not about to admit to this ignorance publicly, oh no. Some of the songs were written specially for this occasion. The wordplay here is redolent of the classic and classy show songs of the '30s and '40s. And I'm talking about big words that flow and fit, not big words that make you flinch at their cumbersome inappropriateness - the so-called Andrew Lloyd-Webber Musical syndrome. Your Inarticulate Boyfriend kicks things off on an uncharacteristicly Calexicoish note - it sounds like one of their trademark shuffling mariachi numbers with soaring brass, but here with smart lyrics, like, "He can barely form a compound sentence / He can barely make his case at all". Musically the rest of the songs settle into a waltzy jazzier groove, with Latin flavours and a tendency towards a small-combo sound with touches of strings, cello and piano. Empty Sentiment is a lovely song that Frank Sinatra could well have sung back when, and there's a mention of Nelson Riddle to remind us of this golden era too. Franklin Bruno plays loungey piano on this song, and plays something on all of the tracks in fact. Jenny Toomey's voice suits and copes effortlessly with all this sophistication and subtlety. She's not a big singer, as such, but therefore she doesn't overdo. The string arrangements are subtle too, with Masonic Eye a weird one, to be sure. The Calexico lads contribution is, apart from colonising the aforementioned first track, mostly down to John Convertino's drums, but Joey Burns plays bass here and there, and shares the vocals on Let's Stay In, a song which mentions Scrabble, cell-phones and a fax, which is not common in modern song. Smooth but quirky, and varied in tone and sound are my final summing-up words on this one. (Except to advise you, for your listening pleasure, to lose the nasty last track.)

Jeff Cotton
November 2002