Al­ways was my girl – and she’s back with a Christ­mas cracker

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - OPINION -

AFEW life­times ago – the time and place are unim­por­tant – a life­long, loyal love af­fair be­gan when I first heard I Al­ways Was Your Girl. There was some­thing star­tling about the singer’s voice – it was warm and rich but with a melan­cholic un­der­tow which per­fectly dove­tailed with what she was singing. But in those pre-Shazam days, you had to go into an olde recorde shoppe, de­scribe the song and the sound and hope that some­one knew who you were re­fer­ring to.

The song was from Ev­ery­thing But The Girl’s now clas­sic Idlewild al­bum. I left the shop with not just the al­bum but all four al­bums they had re­leased pre­vi­ously. Since then, I’ve been hope­lessly in thrall to Tracey Thorn’s mu­sic.Way back to her early work with Marine Girls, all 11 EBTG al­bums (along with com­pi­la­tions and bootlegs), and on up to her solo ca­reer.

Thorn has al­ways been my vo­cal­ist. She can do any­thing: lounge, jazz, pop and sen­si­tive Belle and Se­bas­tian-type indie (there’s a band who owe a debt to EBTG). Lis­ten to her skip through Each and Ev­ery One, sound trag­i­cally doomed on This Love (Not For Sale) and ex­e­cute the only ver­sion of I Don’t Want To Talk About It you ever need to hear.

Pre­vi­ously un­der the radar and with some­what of a cult ap­peal, it all changed for Thorn when Todd Terry remixed an EBTG song, Miss­ing, and it be­came a global smash (even though the orig­i­nal is bet­ter). There have been a few choice Thorn col­lab­o­ra­tions over the years – she’s been writ­ing and record­ing since 1980 – Mas­sive At­tack, Paul Weller and The Go-Be­tweens have all used her flaw­less pitch and de­liv­ery.

A solo artist now for the past few years, she still re­leases qual­ity work which is rou­tinely over­looked. A very low-key per­former, Thorn is from the same spir­i­tual sta­ble as the likes of Eddi Reader – peo­ple who are in it for the mu­sic. It re­ally should have been Thorn and not Sade who made the big in­ter­na­tional break­through and sold gazil­lions of al­bums, but Thorn isn’t the type to re­duce

❙❙❙ her­self to the syrupy MOR rub­bish Sade built her ca­reer on.

Many thought her new col­lec­tion Tin­sel and Lights (which is pick­ing up some of her best ever re­views) was a hoax when it came up on the sched­ules, as it’s a Christ­mas al­bum and the last thing you ex­pect from Thorn is a bunch of sea­sonal fillers. As it hap­pens, you can dust off the term “clas­sic” for this most be­guil­ing of re­leases.

There are two new self-penned songs – the ti­tle track and the gen­tly sublime Joy but it’s the cov­ers that re­ally el­e­vate this. She works won­ders with songs by Dolly Par­ton (!), Suf­jan Stevens, The White Stripes, Randy New­man and Joni Mitchell. But go di­rectly to her take on Low’s Tak­ing Down The Tree, a duet with Scritti Politti’s Green Gart­side. All in all, it’s the sort of col­lec­tion that gives the Christ­mas al­bum a good name.

And while Tracey Thorn has your at­ten­tion, stick in a pre-or­der for her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Bed­sit Disco Queen, which is due early in the New Year. Caitlin Mo­ran – au­thor of How To Be A Woman says of it : “Tracey Thorn is the Alan Bennett of pop me­moirists. I loved this book so much I want to form a band. Prefer­ably with Tracy Thorn.” As Thorn her­self has it: “I’ve been in the charts, out of them, back in. I’ve seen my­self de­scribed as an indie dar­ling, a mid­dle-of-the-road no­body and a disco diva. I haven’t al­ways fit­ted in you see . . .”.

Get ready for your close-up Tracey, you’re back. As I al­ways knew you would be. bboyd@irish­times.com

Tracey Thorn: pi­o­neer of Girl Power

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