Michael Chapman : Plaindealer Rural Retreat Records 2005
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|Streamline train - for john pilgrim. Michael takes the Vipers track and makes it his own. A driving rythmn suggests riding the rails and a hobo drawl vocal the traveller riding. Guitar builds really well at the end section.|
|Where does that leave me - trademark Chapman guitar opens the track over a wonderfully melancholic lyric, a follow on to Navigation's Drinking Again. Some wonderful word play and some beautiful evocotive dobro from Rod Clements making his first recorded appearence since 1980's Looking For Eleven|
|Anniversary - this is a track that Michael rediscovered on some club live tapes that were released as part of the Growing Pains cd series. He had recorded it as part of a Radio One Night Ride session in June 1968 as 'if i bring you roses'. He recorded it again on Kule 2B Blue with Alamo Leal. The track is a huge guitar work out that captures the energy of the live version. It opens with brooding atmospherics and an african thumb piano that leads to that familar guitar part, similar in feel to Memphis In Winter. The circa 69 Rainmaker riff heralds some dirty electric guitar and the verse. Excellent picked electric solo too. The theme comes back in and it draws to a close like a huge train into a station - you get the feeling Michael could have played it all night.|
|Ramon and Durango- eyes screwed up against the bright light and the heat, Michael revels in cheap wine and berates his car, stranded in lizard country. The wonderful Jeff Betsworth, Charlie Crut (played in Savage Amusement with Michael and Rick Kemp) and Rod play so well together that there really should be a touring band called Plaindealer. The track feels like a hark back to the sessions for The Twisted Road and is one of the many that sounds as if was recorded in an adobe outhouse in Tucson rather than in Cumbria. Michael is lyrically at his best when recalling a real moment full of small detail.|
|Georgia Gibson - a beautiful instrumental dedicated to a guitar, not an ode to a sepia photographed trail rider or a ma rainey era blues singer.|
Deportees - Woody Guthrie Its the late 40's and we're sitting on a stoop, stealing 5 minutes, hats down against the heat, a valve radio struggles to hold onto a distant country station as Jeff's steel guitar cuts through the am static. Jeff Betsworth is a fine steel player who has added atmospheres to Chapman's last two studio albums. Michael's big guitar and vocal fleshes out the workers dozing around us. A emotional rendition that focuses on the exploited workers and their plight in a song that too often is turned into an upbeat folk club sing-a-long.
|Midnight Ride - Carrying on the real feel of America running through the album there is Native American tribal feel running through this track. Another early classic unrecorded until now. Rod's Guitar and Jeffs pedal steel squeal and shimmer around each other, again suggesting there should be a Plandealer band. That stomping rain dance guitar at the start is infectious.|
|Victory And Defeat - classic closing time philosophy as Michael, looking through the bottom of the near empty beer glass sees everything backwards and distorted. An excellent revisit of a track from the Black And White album|
|Three Sisters - an intricate instrumental, close your eyes and you can see the fingers gliding over the frets. It sounds perfect and effortless, flying eight digit ballet|
Youth Is Wasted On The Young - An old Savage Amusement band track where Michael laments time spent when it felt like the future stretched out beyond forever. A reflection on choices made and choices that could have been made, but weren't. A bitter pondering of the perils of obsession that 'takes my time away', sentiments that will resonate when the song is played live in darkened clubs. Classic ironic encore material.
|Bon Ton Roolay - This is the bones of a track recorded in the 80's for Whispered Evidence a stalled album with Richie Close a wonderful keyboard player. 2005 Chapman duets with his earlier incarnation while keyboards and chipped guitars whirl around them. Michael shakes his head at the dark sentiments of the previous track...fuck it i'm away down the pub|
|Hidden Track - the welcome return of the Chapman's answer phone last heard on Navigation's Cudgegong and an uncredited mate unintentionally recalling vivian stanshall's dilated star turn on Tubular Bells. The sign off echoes Deportees|
Two instrumental albums recalling travels, countless tours and a lifelong obsession with spaces and particularly the american wilderness have got us to here, an album that just oozes Americana. Play this blind to a willing listener and they would imagine recording sessions in an airstream trailer underneath an endless sky or a band in a clapper board roadhouse on some rural route. The Hunter S Thompson look alike and the denim wearing hardened memphis bar band player, eyes hidden behind sunglasses, shielded from the harsh old west sun certainly look like tey live that life. This is an album of recollections, intoned in moments stolen alongside a dusty road to somewhere and sun baked atmospheres. Travis could stumble out of the Sierra Vieja Mountains on his way to Paris, Texas, to this album and Ry Cooder would be out of a job. Chapman is a master of his own individually spiced and blended musical gumbo. He should be an international legend, name dropped by everyone and had he been born in Sheffield Texas rather than Leeds Yorkshire he would be.
Marc Higgins 04 06 05 Journeyman
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