Too calculated to fully convince.
Julian Marszalek 2009
For a debut release, Christina Courtin's eponymous album sure comes packed with the kind of heavyweight clout usually reserved for artists with an established pedigree. Joined by erstwhile Neil Young and Travelling Wilburys drummer Jim Keltner, keyboardist Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers fame and former Tom Waits guitarist Marc Ribot amongst others, Courtin co-produces her inaugural album with renowned session guitarist Ryan Scott and Woody Allen's Monday night bassist Greg Cohen.
Courtin herself has been no slouch. Since graduating from New York's famed Juilliard School, she's worked with Ryan Adams, Kanye West, violinist Yo-Yo Ma and composer Osvaldo Golijov. So, given Courtin's obvious talents and bulging contact book, why does her debut never really take off?
As evidenced on the opening salvo of Green Jay and Bundah, her soft vocals evoke a child-like innocence and the gentle country styling and jazz-lite embellishment give the feeling of gossamer delicacy, but their one-paced nature fails to shift the album into a higher gear.
Whilst encroaching on Norah Jones' territory with an almost casual ease, Courtin nonetheless lacks the idiosyncratic spark that would see her mark herself out as a serious contender and, with the likes of One Man Down and Hedonistic Paradise, Courtin frequently paints herself into a one-paced country waltz corner.
Yet the album isn't without merit and it's the final home stretch of Unzipped that hints at some form of redemption and a possible way forward. Building slowly from predictable origins, the track gradually stirs into a hypnotic whirlpool that finally makes use of the talent aboard this album.
Too calculated to fully convince, Courtin may yet succeed if she yields to her instincts rather than playing by consensus and committee.