Michelle TumesIt is rare to get someone with gorgeous, silky, multi-layered vocals, who intuitively knows how to craft natural melodies and poppy hooks. Tumes is special.

Label: Levantar

Time: 11 tracks, 40 mins

Michelle Tumes made her name from the ethereal beauty of her first two albums and was soon co-opted onto a series of projects that doubled in sonic value by her gorgeous layered harmony vocals.

Success in Nashville saw her tempted into a pop format, so losing much of the heavenly appeal that was her trademark. She is too talented to make a poor album, however, and her deft way with a melody still made Dream a fine collection, but just not as great as it could have been.

As a result, she left the machine and – one baby later – has returned on her own account, conducting the strings herself with husband Doug Higgins producing. Even after her superb previous achievements, she has taken a step forward here.

Some songs are understated anthems that swell and fall to the rhythm of the heart. "Fair Weather" is one of her many natural melodies. It takes off with its chorus powered by strings that pulse and soar. Adding to its fuel are the lyrics, which celebrate how God's love is constant, no matter how far we fall.

No matter how far Tumes travels into mystery and atmosphere,she often manages to provide a song that is entirely human, charming and endearing. Here that is the innocence and joy of "Lovely Day". But there is another kind of simplicity at the end, when she casts off the warm covering of the rest of the album to close with a song she wrote at seventeen, "Hold on to Jesus".

Even though "Domine" and "Let it Rain" have been singles, there are even better tracks here. "Gypsy Heart" is another song that flies high in the chorus, this time with stabs of her own harmony vocals in Enya-esque style, and the Enya appeal also comes out on "Caelus Infinitum," a song about finding a piece of heaven on Earth...

...which is just how you could describe Michelle Tumes' music.

Derek Walker

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