Spirit In the Room

Spirit In the Room

For 2013's Spirit in the Room, Tom Jones and producer Ethan Johns aim for a set of relatively modern songs done as low-key and reflectively as a natural showman like Jones can do. 2010's Praise & Blame showed this team doing late-career wonders with blues and spirituals; the song's copyright dates put a few of them into the public-domain pile. Here, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan (again), and Richard Thompson are among the songwriters. Waits' "Bad As Me" shakes things out to an avant-rock core, while Thompson's "Dimming of the Day" resonates as a simple acoustic guitar–and–voice ballad. Cohen's "Tower of Song" is tailored for Jones' predicament as a man tied not to a table but to the stage, and Odetta's "Hit or Miss" has the kind of old wisdom and classic structure that Jones lives to deliver. The biggest surprise is hearing Paul McCartney's "(I Want To) Come Home" turned into a blues tune that sounds as if it came from Tom Waits' pen.

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