Michael Chapman, Bert Jansch and Al Stewart emerged in the mid-1960s with an uniquely English take on folk-blues. The era of the folk-singer-songwriter-as-pop-star was kicked off Stateside by Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton, and cloning soon followed in Britain in the shape of Donovan and Cat Stevens. But what musicians such as Chapman and Jansch then brought to the folkies’ party was guitar virtuosity.
Whereas Jansch first learned from Scottish traditional folk musicians such as Hamish Imlach when he took up guitar, Michael was perhaps even more of a maverick. First playing pubs in Hull and Leeds, the musical style he carved out for himself drew from American influences as wide-ranging as Charles Mingus and John Fahey. Add to this Chapman’s very North of England sense of humour and view on life, and you have… the artist Michael Chapman.
In fact, he was an art and photography lecturer in Bolton before deciding to give up the day job. This happened after a summer vacation spent in Cornwall where he made equally good money as a working musician. The word ‘troubadour’ perfectly describes Michael’s lifestyle in the four decades since then: a world-class guitarist who has spent big chunks of his life out on the road drawing on ordinary life in order to create extraordinary music.
Chapman has played all kinds of venues throughout his career depending on the project in hand. He alternated between playing solo and being backed by a band – sometimes featuring Hull-born Mick Ronson and, like here, Steeleye Span’s Rick Kemp.
By his own admission, Michael did his fair share of rock’n’roll living during the 1970s.
This album features Chapman, Tim Renwick and Andy Latimer on guitars, Keef Hartley on drums, Rick Kemp on bass, Peter Wood on keys and Leo Leblanc on pedal steel guitar. Recorded at Sawmills in Cornwall, Tapestry in London and Ardent in Memphis, it was produced by Stax producer Don Nix (known for his soul/gospel/blues work) and represented a desire to connect with many of Chapman’s favourite Memphis recordings. To hear the difference that Nix brought, compare ‘Shuffleboat River Farewell’, the album opener, with the live version off Pleasures of the Street, taped the previous summer, or the original on Wrecked Again.
A real stunningly ‘savage’ album, a real period piece and a demonstration that Chapman can do mainstream as well as the maverick melancholic material for which he is more renowned.
1. Shuffleboat River Farewell
2. Secret Of The Locks
3. Crocky Hill Disaster
4. Lovin' Dove
5. Hobo’s Lament (Meditation)
7. How Can a Poor Man
8. It Didn't Work Out
9. Devastation Hotel
10. Lovin' Dove (Demo)
11. Just To Keep You (Demo)
12. Devastation Hotel & Crocky Hill Disaster Idea (Demo)
13. Waiting For A Train (All Around the Water Tank) (Demo)
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