Thursday, 3 February 2011

PASSION, PAIN & PLEASURE: Reggae-rock goddess Tessanne Chin gives “In Between Words” so much heart and lustrous melody

The wait is over! After whetting appetites (simultaneously proving her sublimely melismatic chops) on hit recordings like the soulfully splendid “Hideaway” and the vivacious banger “Black Books,” it was high time Tessanne Chin rewarded her faithful following with a full-length studio album to genuinely herald her arrival as a songstress of note. With the edgy, melodious In Between Words, Chin indeed delivers the real deal, a balanced and sonically superb set of 14 tracks worth repeated listens. Personally, as my loyal readers can attest, I am very, very selective about the music that gets my attention, and I have already given this album consecutive listens for days on end. It’s that good. But enough about me.

If popular singles “Hideaway,” “Messenger” and “Black Books” didn’t get the point across, for most of In Between Words, Chin’s frequently tender croon consistently goes straight for the heart. “Hideaway” speaks volumes, and on “Taken,” to cite another example, she thoughtfully addresses a man whose found love in someone else’s arms, while wishing him the very best. Touching. Still, the album allows the singer to display a rich, eclectic musicality (bass-heavy rock, one-drop reggae, groovy R&B, contemporary soul, vintage funk) from the pulsating instrumentation to the engaging melodies she chooses, while addressing themes that run the gamut of passion, pain and pleasure. At the same time, her unique vocal stylings and artistic imagination are given free-spirited display.

Each song stands robustly on its own, but the many highlights include the emotionally charged “Guilty By Design”; the pop-rock blockbuster “Loving You,” which features sterling contribution from Kes; and the moody “Blue Lights.” Best, however, is “You and Me,” a breathtaking duet with big sis Tami Chynn that leaves no doubt just how ridiculously talented these sisters are vocally and lyrically. Beautifully written and deeply stirring, “You and Me” packs incredible yearning and works wonderfully as a piece for two voices.

Packed with profound meaning, In Between Words proves that in some cases an album title is not left up to chance. My only quibble is that music aficionados (like yours truly) are unable to own a physical copy of the album as it was released for the market solely as a digital product, available for MP3 downloads via iTunes and Amazon. But that’s where the music industry is headed anyway, so that takes nothing away from the impressive success Chin achieves with this solid and stellar debut effort. This is a musical tour-de-force too good to pass up. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

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