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Kristina Train - Black and Blue
on 5 November 2012
Anyone who witnessed Kristina Train perform the instant classic that is the title track of her new album "Dark Black' on Jools Holland recently would have been instantly besotted and rushed to the download button. It is one of those songs that you feel you might have heard before with a frisson of some long lost ballad, a hint of J S Bach and something that you can't quite pin down. Its aching melody and wonderfully lush delivery by Ms Train, a New York-born and Savannah, Georgia-raised singer, deserves it to strain under the weight of plaudits and awards.
Kristina Train is not a product of TV music auditions or some "Joni come lately". Certainly there are similarities in the musical space she occupies to Norah Jones (not a bad thing!) but her template is cast from a much more bluesy backdrop. She has paid her dues with some of the best musicians treading the boards including the great Herbie Hancock, Chris Issak and has in the background assisting in songwriting duties the criminally neglected Ed Harcourt and her producer Martin Craft. Her last album "Split Milk" was fine but "Dark Black" raises her game to the premier division. While nothing quite touches the sublime beauty of the title track there is much here to be admired and devoured. The excellent Roy Orbison sounding "Dream of me" sounds like an authentic 50s jukebox ballad where she sings of a "Lonely life" that is "Always caught beneath the wheels/Broken by the night". Her cover of the tremendous Band of Horses ballad "No ones gonna love you" takes a slow turn, with a sparse electronica underpinning and is none the worse for it with a sensitive vocal by Train. Similarly she stirs the ghost of Billie Holliday in the melancholy of "Saturdays are the greatest" and there will barely be a dry eye in the house on her tender performance of "Stick together". There are couple of songs that are not quite so successful, for example "I wanna live in LA" (why would you?) is lyrically weak with lines such as "there is a place where there are blue skies and the sun shines every day", equally Trains mellow voice doesn't really carry the Winehouse style ballad of "Pins and Needles" with the requisite force. Small complaints however and the gorgeous "Ever-loving arms" makes up for these deficiencies and more.
Kristina Train is locating herself in the middle of genre that is not short of great singers. Madeline Peyroux and Melody Gardot immediately spring to mind and there are many others. Train's unique selling point however are those mesmerising melodies and a vocal style that does sometimes recall the late great Dusty Springfield. There is always a place in popular music for a sensuous chanteuse with a bag full of classic songs. Kristina Train has arrived on time and on this form the next part of her journey should be intriguing.