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The Spirit Of Tom Jones

03 MAY 13 DAVID SHANNON

When an artist of Tom Jones’ stature joins Rounder Records, it’s big news. Jones’ position in the firmament of modern day musical entertainers remains foundational, spanning the British Invasion to the present, and his first album with Rounder holds up as strongly as anything he’s ever done -- maybe even more so. On Spirit In The Room, Jones covers a selection of tunes from some of songwriting’s heavy hitters, from Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan to Joe Henry and Tom Waits, showing off his uncanny ability to interpret others’ work.

The record contains numerous high notes. Jones delivers a spooky, haunting meditation on Henry’s “All Blues Hail Mary,” and his optimistic baritone perfectly suits Dylan’s “When The Deal Goes Down.” His take on “Just Dropped In” (first made famous by The New Edition, featuring a pre-Gambler Kenny Rogers) mellows out the original psychedelic elements but retains the song’s timeless metaphysical overtones. For a knight (he was dubbed by Queen Elizabeth in 2006), Jones also has always had a knack for channeling the blues, and here he compellingly updates Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul of A Man.”

It’s always impressive when artists find new ways to express themselves. In recreating the songs of these brilliant songwriters for his debut with Rounder, at age 72 Jones has reinvented himself once again.