Michael Chapman, the old folk guitarist from Leeds, has had a bit of a career renaissance of late. He has a long list of admirers from the American alternative music scene such as Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile, Will Oldham and Bill Callahan, which has probably helped. He is about to turn 75 so what better way to celebrate than release a new album, Fish.
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When stuck I like to think of Michael Chapman as a direct cross between John Fahey and Jim Bowen. Both masters in their particular field but Chapman is more than just a wise cracking guitar man, he has made straightforward singer songwriters, he's gone to the moon and back with Thurston Moore but his best work is when he gets his guitar out of it’s case and simply plays it. His ‘Trainsong' collection for example is essential listening for any fan of rolling guitar textures.
Here, on the cusp of his 75th birthday is the Michael Chapman of my dreams. It's Michael Chapman playing guitar nicely and it’s all anyone could wish for. On opener ‘Plain Old Bob has a Hoe Down’ his beautiful rolling playing is joined by some nice percussion and a kick drum for an upbeat slice of pastoral bliss. ‘Lament for Nepal’ is more sombre with dissonant chords echoing away. Where Chapman continues to pluck up sun-dappled delights such as ‘Wrytree Gift’ is anyones guess. It’s the pure sound of early morning sun glinting on a lake and it is unbearably pretty.
Though Chapman is joined by cello player Sarah Smout on ’Stockport Monday’, the majority of this record is almost entirely solo. If you’ve seen Chapman live you’ll know his guitar playing is mesmerising and large chunks of this album are perfect examples of his way with pretty chords and thick fingerpicking. There's a chunkiness in Chapmans picking that I rarely hear in other players - like a lifetime of fine stout and Yorkshire puddings have thickened his movements. He is not only the greatest living Northern English guitarist but dare I say the greatest living guitarist in the entire world and this album is an absolute embarrassment of riches.
10/10 Mike Kavanagh 4th November 2015
Turn the lights to semi-darkness and lie low, if you like psychedelic raga finger picking guitar playing, this will turn you on.
He's been using birds parictis and now fish titles,,changing a few chords into that well know old fashioned HUM, it's more up tempo that his Polar Bear sound.
He totally surprised me with the triangle so i will be whipping out my old Fully Qualified Survivor record. to you unititated listen to someone who has been playing the guitar for a long time
So for we (those ) roll over and light up that smoke.
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- Fish by Michael Chapman
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