Irish singer Christine Tobin, who won a Herald Angel for her A Thousand Kisses Deep presentation of Leonard Cohen songs at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe, makes a rare trip back to Scotland when she and her partner, guitarist Phil Robson play duo concerts in Greenock, Linlithgow and Perth between November 30 and December 2.

Tobin toured Scotland to promote the album of A Thousand Kisses Deep the year after her Fringe success before she and Robson moved to New York to work on the jazz scene over there.

Now back on this side of the Atlantic and living in Co. Roscommon in Ireland, Tobin recently released her twelfth album, Returning Weather, and will give it its official UK live premiere at London Jazz Festival before her Scottish visit.

Christine Tobin: Sailing to Byzantium (Trail Belle)

“It would have been great to bring the Returning Weather group with us to Scotland but the musicians involved are all so busy that getting them all in the same place at the same time is next to impossible,” says Tobin, who first came to national attention in the UK in the Celtic-jazz group Lammas with saxophonist Tim Garland and the Scottish guitarist-poet Don Paterson.

Returning Weather features Cora Venus Lunny, daughter of Irish music legend Donal Lunny, on violin. David Power, who currently features with fiddler Martin Hayes, plays uilleann pipes and whistle, and Steve Hamilton, who tours internationally with drumming icon Billy Cobham, plays piano on the album. So guitarist Robson has his work cut out to create the atmosphere of the Returning Weather songs in a duo.

Christine Tobin and Sophie Bancroft

“Fortunately, Phil’s a very resourceful musician,” says Tobin with a laugh. “We’ve rearranged the new material to fit the two of us and we’ll also be playing songs from previous albums that we’ve been playing as a duo for some time. It’s different from playing in a band but there’s also something rewarding and liberating in working with just voice and guitar.”

Robson’s resourcefulness has seen him working with Barbra Streisand, Dame Cleo Laine and former James Brown saxophonist Maceo Parker, as well as top-line jazz musicians including saxophonist Dave Liebman, drummer Billy Hart and bassist James Genus.

Tobin has resources of her own, however. Back in 2012 when she was preparing her critically acclaimed album Sailing to Byzantium, featuring W B Yeats poems she’d set to music, she thought it would be good to have an authoritative Irish voice to recite some of Yeats’ verses between tracks. So she contacted her old drama teacher from school, who remembered her and readily agreed to help, and that’s how Irish film actor-director Gabriel Byrne came to make a guest appearance on the album. 

In addition to her Herald Angel, Tobin has also won the BBC Jazz Award for Best Vocalist, in 2008, and the Jazz Vocalist of the Year title at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, in 2014.

Meet a singer who's right on song

She and Robson have fond memories of their previous Scottish tour, when with double bassist Dave Whitford they drove the length and breadth of the country in Whitford’s compact Renaud Kangoo.

“We had a great time touring A Thousand Kisses Deep across Scotland back in 2014, seeing the landscape and playing in some lovely venues,” says Tobin. “Ten years is a long time between visits, so we’re really looking forward to this return trip, going to some different places and sharing some new songs and some familiar but slightly reworked material.”

* Christine Tobin & Phil Robson play Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock on Thursday November 30; St Peter’s Church, Linlithgow on Friday, December 1, and Perth Theatre on Saturday December 2.