Product DetailsQuick bit of background for you; Tinlin is made up of Alex and Rolf Tinlin and Jake Carrack (son of Paul Carrack); they also get a bit of help on this album from Eleanor Tinlin (oboe and cor anglais) and Steph Bloor (cello).  The Tinlin brothers write the songs, play a variety of fretted string instruments (guitars and mandolins mainly) and sing (beautifully).  There’s also some tasteful electric piano here and there as well.

“Shade of the Shadows” is the second studio album and is a pretty good snapshot of Tinlin in 2012.   There are a lot of things I like about this album, but there are also a few things that I’m less certain about.  Let’s start with the positives.

The playing on the album is very impressive; lots of nice guitar finger-picking and interesting chords, all of which gives the album a bit of a 70s troubadour feel.  After the opener “Do I Deny”, which is fragment from the closer “After the Rain”, “In These Arms” is reminiscent of Al Stewart at his least pretentious, making effective use of a cello to provide some extra bottom end and counterpoint to the melody.  “Steal” immediately reminded me of the quieter side of Extreme (anyone remember them?); lovely guitar work, melodic and with beautiful harmonies.

Play the Game” demonstrates the brothers playing at their best  with an intricate guitar and mandolin arrangement and perfect harmonies, while “Find a Way” is the most uptempo song on the album, the guitar chords creating a jazzy feel  in the intro and verses before a great chorus (complete with the usual harmonies).  “Haunted” opens with a typically understated, but very effective, keyboard riff which underpins the verse before another perfectly-harmonised chorus, and so the album goes on.

Northwest Light” is an acknowledgement of folkier, more traditional, influences in the instrumentation and lyrical themes (with just a little nod to Randy Newman) and is a delicate and fragile little gem.  The final track “After the Rain” includes the fragment “Do I Deny” from the beginning of the album as a coda to the song before a false ending leads to a “hidden” version of “Red Wine State of Mind” (imagine a polite acoustic version of “Mama Told me Not to Come”) which works surprisingly well; and another Randy Newman link for you.

I can’t criticise any of the playing or singing on the album; it’s all excellent and the songs are all well-crafted.  Lyrically, I would love to hear a move away from the traditional singer/songwriter themes of unrequited love, lost love and lack of worth; a bit less diffidence and a bit more bite would work better for me.  While the arrangements are always interesting, there might be a case for simplifying some of them and substituting a bit of attack for subtlety at times.  As a great example of effective interpretation of a Tinlin song, Paul Carrack’s version of “Make it Right” on “Good Feeling” is perfect.  He simplifies the riff to create a vaguely sinister feel while giving the vocal a soul interpretation and creating a cover which more than holds its own in a collection of great songs by great writers.

It’s understandable that Alex and Rolf want to play to their strengths and on “Shade of the Shadows” they have produced a really good set of songs played and arranged well but I’m sure we haven’t heard the best of Tinlin yet.