The Dark Gift of Time is Christine Collister's second solo album since beginning her solo career in 1992. Prior to that time, she built a name for herself as vocalist for Richard Thompson and one half of Gregson and Collister. Collister is a talented, impassioned song stylist. As such there are only two original tracks here. One is Collister's moving duet, "The Irish Sea," which is augmented by John Surman on bass clarinet. Elsewhere, we are invited to recognize her ability in the way she possesses a song and infuses it with her soul. Her treatment of "The Whole Night Sky" (Bruce Cockburn) paints the entire twinkling canopy a somber hue. The mood of Tom Waits' crisp, sanguine ballad "Dirt in the Ground" becomes redeeming in her gospel-like delivery. A brighter glint of hope shines through Collister's stark and abandoned take on "Deeper Well" (Emmylou Harris). Her equally downbeat jazz ensemble shows up in various lineups for these tracks. On "I Want to Vanish" (Elvis Costello), only double bass and baritone saxophone are required for maximum effect of her spare treatment. The simplicity of each approach spells intimacy and authenticity upon listening. Combined with an even tone and approach, The Dark Gift of Time is an exquisite, smoky jazz approach to a well-chosen contemporary repertoire. Collister also provides excellent versions of "Black Eyed Dog" (Nick Drake), "God Bless the Child" (Billie Holiday), and an excellent theme for her musical Weltanschauung, Colin Linden's "Sad & Beautiful World."
AllMusic Review by Tom Schulte