Beth Nielsen Chapman - Uncovered
Like many, I first discovered Beth Nielsen Chapman as a songwriter. In the late 1980s she enjoyed success penning hit songs for the Girls Next Door, Tanya Tucker, Willie Nelson, Don Williams, Lorrie Morgan and others. She was obviously a new Music Row songwriter to keep an eye on. Then, a few years later, signed to Warner Bros Records, she started releasing her own superb albums, and in double-quick time she became an important Nashville-based singer-songwriter. She continued penning hits for Alabama, Suzy Bogguss, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride and many others but her own recordings were becoming deeper, more varied, and dare I say it, more personal and intimate. Yet her themes were universal, and boosted by a growing cult following across the UK, she toured successfully this side of the Atlantic to the extent that she’s moved way beyond that initial cult following.
For this latest album, Beth has revisited her back catalogue to record a dozen songs that had been recorded by others, but not by her. The result is a delightful trip down ‘memory lane’ with a fresh and intriguing perspective. She is joined by various guest singers and musicians on sessions that took place in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and her own ‘Tree House’ studio in Nashville. A skilled pianist, her keyboard notes set the tone for Simple Things with Kim Carnes adding harmony vocals. Like many of her songs, it has a sad edge, but tinged with optimism. Here We Are, a co-write with Vince Gill, who joins in on harmonies, is a well-crafted song about a love that endures and delivers on Beth’s reputation for lyrical excellence. Legendary guitarist Duane Eddy adds his distinctive guitar tones to Sweet Love Shine, a song co-written with the late Waylon Jennings. Interestingly, Jessi Colter, Eddy’s ex-wife and Waylon’s widow, adds background vocals. A hauntingly hypnotic melody and a well-crafted lyric is apparent on Maybe That’s All It Takes, a hit for Don Williams that Beth co-wrote with Darrell Scott who sings and plays on this exquisite rendition.
Everything of course hinges on the delivery system, and Beth simply has never sounded better or more committed to a set of lyrics. She brings a pleasing type of voice to up-tempo things like Nothing I Can Do About It Now and the bluegrass-flavoured Strong Enough To Bend, and is equally effective on more subtle pieces such as the soulful Meet Me Halfway. Layered in the fabric of Almost Home are soft keyboard threads and a majestic weave of vocal harmonies courtesy of Gretchen Peters, Suzi Bogguss and Matraca Berg. There’s a fresh kind of depth to the singer and a new take on the songs, reflecting every turn in the tragic-and-triumphant road Beth has travelled with her music. An album sure to delight long-time fans and also reel in newcomers to one of the most important Nashville singer-songwriters of the past 25 years.