Tina Harrod - Worksongs
Having firmly established herself as one of Australia's
premier soul singers, Tina Harrod ran a risk in turning to
jazzier material. She could have joined the long list of almosts
and abject failures.
There's a crucial difference between Harrod
and most of her want-to-be peers, however: she pours herself -
every inch, sinew and synapse - into the songs, so the words
throb with commitment rather than shuddering with pretence.
'Round Midnight" was the big test. The apotheosis of the jazz
ballad, it leaves nowhere to hide, so any singer failing to fully
grapple with its genius and potency is left floundering. Harrod
gives you goose-bumps. It's like she's singing about the last
night of life, stretching vowels for telling timbral effect, and
sometimes letting her voice crack like a mirror held up to the
This, her second album, begins with a much less convincing
performance on Stevie Wonder's "Big Brother", despite exceptional
playing from her band of pianist Matt McMahon, bassist Jonathan
Zwartz and drummer Hamish Stuart.
The real work begins with the
ensuing "Comes Love", when she shows she can not only emote and
be sassy at the same time, but that she also knows how to drape
the phrasing over the pulse so there is no sense of gravity. Some
singers never get that.
Then she springs a surprise with Nick Drake's sad, dreamy,
enigmatic "River Man".
The original acoustic guitar and strings
give way to a rolling drum figure played with mallets, which is
widened by the bass, and then flecked with piano, while Harrod
lilts across the top. It's a superb change of mood, a process
continued when she digs into the bluesy glissandos of "Feelin'
Good", a piece, like the rollicking "CC Rider", straight from her
Two tunes from her first album (co-written with the late
Jackie Orszaczky) are revisited for more naked readings, and the
intensity glows with a blue flame on "I Loves You, Porgy",
revealing the true beauty of her contralto when she lets the tone
billow on a held note.
On "Glory Box" she effortlessly combines
her beefier side with an affecting vulnerability, underpinned by
huge, growling bass notes. That vulnerability leaps out again on
the timeless "Don't Explain", and Harrod doesn't need to.
do this. She's one of the few.
John Shand SMH