Plumb Need You Now. A return to original form sees Tiffany Arbuckle Lungs exercising her Florence on some soaring melodies.

Label: Curb
Time: 13 Tracks / 50 minutes

Right from the start, this release brings to mind Plumb’s striking Candycoatedwaterdrops début, as the opening distorted guitar line from “Invisible” suddenly cuts to a clean version with space all round it, followed by some treated vocals and a hook strong enough to hang an elephant on.

It is a reminder how much impact producer Matt Bronleewe has had on her sound, with his lush, symphonic soundscapes. The drum sound on “Drifting” – a duet with Jars of Clay’s Dan Haseltine – and the huge, desperate choruses in songs like the title track, “I Want You Here” and “Say Your Name” could also have  been snatched from that first release.

Several songs on this collection suggest pictures of Tiffany Arbuckle Lee standing on a mountain, like some anguished 21st century Julie Andrews:  shoulders back, arms outstretched and head upward, crying out to the sky as she sings. Her voice simply has that sense of scale.

But a personal crisis was flying fast and low around the mountain, like some jet fighter on a training  exercise. “I’ve got issues, that’s for sure,” she sings, describing herself as a wild thing in “Cage.” Most of the disc was written before what she refers to as her “dark winter,” but it could have been written from the middle of it. Lyrics like “If I ever needed you, I need you now,” were her heart-cry during that now-thawed season.

Plumb revisits some familiar personal themes: there’s much about dealing with pain and, with a natural and memorable melody, “Unloveable” talks about how Christians can shut out people whom Jesus would have loved. But there are also pieces that celebrate love and deeply appreciate her son.

By contrast with her belted-out tracks, the mandolin-tinged “One Drop” and “Chocolate and Ice Cream” are lightweight enough for daytime radio and the latter borders on irritating, but maybe the collection needs these fluffy alternatives to give more power the rest by contrast.

There are a couple of beautiful bridges between the two styles: “I Don’t Deserve You,” the song for her son, has the usual gravitas, but a milder vocal; while “At Arm’s Length” plays the disc out with a treated, breathy vocal and mellow mood.

There may be little new here, but – colourful and powerful as ever – this work is among Lee’s best.

Derek Walker

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