For a long time fan of Tom Jones, the Tom Jones most people know, the sexy, swaggering swinger, the belter of R&B classics and corny country ballads, the bigger than life crooner of movie themes and Las Vegas show stoppers, this new CD represented a challenge, one I wasn't sure I wanted to approach ... except I had heard him stretch his wings and venture into new directions before, and usually with great success (listen to his "Goin' Down Slow," and "Love Letters," featured on the Mike Figgis-directed segment of the TV documentary, The Blues (Martin Scorsese Presents Red, White and Blues). Not really crazy about the samples I heard from another recent Tom Jones effort, Praise & Blame, I wasn't too excited to learn there was more from a great voice whose star I thought was surely on the descent. Then someone sent me a link to a video of Jones doing Leonard Cohen's "Tower of Song," and I was mesmerized. Here was a great, crowd pleasing entertainer who had somehow crossed over into a higher level of artistry. Don't take my word for it, and don't just dismiss him after hearing a few samples here on Amazon. This is deep, soulful music, sung by a voice like no other, with lyrics clearly understood and communicated. And the song choices! Odetta's overlooked, magnificent "Hit Or Miss," from a long out-of-print album of then-contemporary folk songs, gets an inspired, fresh delivery. Richard Thompson's oft-covered "Dimming Of The Day" is sung with the urgency of a man who knows he's on the final leg of his path to glory. Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul Of A Man" sounds like it could have been recorded any time in the last sixty years by a blues master of any color, and is yet, unmistakably, Tom Jones. "Just Dropped In" is, appropriately, a psychedelic-blues outing that makes no attempt at duplicating the Kenny Rogers original while honoring it faithfully. Then there's the Low Anthem spine tingler, "Charlie Darwin," a completely unexpected and wonderful surprise, backed by a heavenly choir. Jones closes with a haunting rendition of Bob Dylan's "When The Deal Goes Down." The spare arrangement fades out on a vibrating echo that left me thinking, "woah! What just happened here?" I say, Sir Thomas John Woodward, OBE, in his winter white years, has topped himself and delivered an instant classic, and it's not his singing alone that makes this latest adventure reach its intended destination - it's the funky, dark-toned playing of all the supporting musicians, most notably the guitar and percussion work of producer Ethan Johns. There's not a false note here; the entire performance from start to finish is intense yet understated, becoming all the more powerful for its restraint, the impeccable song selection and even the sequencing. So far, this is my Album of the Year for 2013!