SARA COLMAN – Ink On A Pin (Stoney Lane Records)

Ink On A PinSara Colman’s Ink On A Pin is a gorgeous tribute to the music of Joni Mitchell. And this album is a departure (and perhaps, even a hejira) from her British singer-songwriter work as witnessed in her last album, What We’re Made Of. But in truth, her own jazz tempered music runs a nice parallel to Joni’s Court And Spark adventurous ‘Free Man In Paris’ ethos.

But in truth (again!), this is not so much an album of “covers”; but rather, it’s the art of a translator. And that’s a tough job. It’s just a literary thought, but Camus’ L Estranger could mean The Foreigner, The Stranger, or The Outsider. That’s a debated call.

And, to cut tough dictionary definitions to a finer nub, as my friend, Kilda Defnut, often says, “What’s the deal with the word, ‘left’? It means something is gone. You know, Elvis has left the building, but it also implies that something still remains, like a piece of pie that still exists—even after a Thanksgiving holiday meal.

I don’t know, but perhaps, that juxtaposition may well be the gist of really great folk music.

And this is a really nice translation from the original brilliant songs into a more jazz-oriented context. Sara’s voice is not dissimilar to JM’s—with an injection to Christine Collister’s sturdy sound.  And the band has an (almost) chamber approach to their playing.

The first song, ‘Court And Spark’, enlarges the bare-bones original with Jonathan Silk’s passionate percussion, Rebecca’ Nash’s flowing piano, and Ben Markland’s bass pulse – all of which propel the music to a bigger cinematic picture.

Then things get really interesting with a flugelhorn graced (thank you, Percy Pursglove!) ‘Chelsea Morning’. The tune is given a wide jazzy berth, in a world away from Joni’s very acoustic version. Just an interesting tidbit: Patrick Humphries, in his book, A History Of Fairport Convention, states that “Kingsley Abbott can remember the band puzzling over exactly what ‘incense owl’ mentioned in ‘Chelsea Morning’ actually was”. Perhaps, that’s just another nightmare for translators everywhere!

The beautiful ‘Amelia’ gets stretched over seven minutes of bliss as strings caress the tune, while that flugelhorn simply soars in sympathy. Once again, the drama pays a decent homage to a wonderful reflective song.

‘This Flight Tonight’—from the brilliant Blue album—gets to dance with Steve Banks’ acoustic guitar.

Then, the Court And Spark tranquil ‘Down To You’ gets a big jazzy push, with more flugelhorn and sympathetic strings. This album simply projects the music onto a very modern screen.

Oh – the classic, ‘Woodstock’, gets another epic overhaul. This is a ghostly glance at the optimism of all those years ago.  The song leaves behind a whole lot of love, yet it embraces, with perhaps an ironic jazzy and very strong hope about (still somehow) “getting back to the garden”, a memory that manages, even after all these years, to remember a really decent tune.

The final song, ‘My Old Man’, of course, is a song (if poetically personified) that still loves Graham Nash. Sara’s bare-bones rendition is filled with an “urge for going” and perhaps, even an immense longing for  love lost, as Rebecca Nash’s sympathetic piano plays a reflective foil of remembrance, with old thoughts carved in quiet ivory.

As said, this is no “covers album”. It’s a lovely record spinning with a translator’s touch that knows when something beautiful from long ago has left, there will always be an eternal desire to “write a love letter” and “knit a sweater” which is nice stuff thankfully left in the grooves of this music—music still “on a lonely road” and always hoping to sing the forever young words, that, indeed (and of course!) “Life is our cause”.

Bill Golembeski

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