Jenny Toomey Tempting: Jenny Toomey Sings the Songs of Franklin Bruno

Future of Music Coalition founder Jenny Toomey takes a break from her busy activist schedule to gather some pals into the studio for yet another good cause: recording the sounds of songwriter Franklin Bruno (who tours under the stage name Nothing Painted Blue and is a UCLA philosophy professor). Members of Calexico lend their eclectic, country-fried skills to the mix, which includes a teeny bit of swing, some cabaret croon, dashes of flamenco and bossanova, and more than a little show tune melodrama. Everything from cellos to pianos to castanets are utilised here, yet all tastefully so in the right place and at the right time, creating seamless transitions between genres. Yet perhaps the most notable instrument here is Toomey's voice: a butter-coated alto that adds sophistication to any song she drizzles it on top of. Here, those songs are tales of unrequited love for one who won't cheat on their hilariously "inarticulate boyfriend," intimate relationships in the shape of a "pointless triangle" and cosy evenings indoors with your honey. Sounds sappy, and at times it is, but only the most cold-hearted grinch couldn't be melted by Toomey's smooth vocals, Calexico's spicy pizzazz and Bruno's masterful song craft. If nothing else, this album proves he's a tunesmith of the highest calibre, with arrangements of impressive chord progressions and intricate instrumentation that could lead to Bacharach and Sondheim comparisons. (Misra)