Bedsitter songwriters - those angst-ridden 22-year-olds trying to drum up a bit of convincing emotion with their contrived lyrics - should use Beth Nielsen Chapman’s new album as a case study. You need to live first.
She’s been through it has Chapman ... her husband died from cancer in 1994, and she subsequently had a brush with the disease herself, and more recently an operation for a benign brain tumour.
On the back of all that one might expect a pretty heavy time musically, but Chapman is a writer and performer who knows about celebrating survival, and the result is a joyous collection of skilfully-written happy songs, delivered in such a relaxed manner that they almost belie the album's incredibly high standard of performance and production.
Some would accuse Chapman of taking the country out of a few Nashville artists and replacing it with what is basically straight-down-the-line pop. Faith Hill’s huge hit "This Kiss" was one of Chapman's, and she’s written for many other country artists too, amongst them Trisha Yearwood, Emmylou Harris, and Willie Nelson. But her work's also been picked up by Elton John, Neil Diamond, and Michael McDonald.
Despite Chapman's Nashville base, this new collection is a pop album, though acoustic instruments abound, particularly mandolin; and her affection for having a Celtic connection shows at one point, with the inclusion of accordion and whistles. And it's obvious she's in a position to call upon Music City’s finest musicians, and they don’t come much finer than those assembled here, with co-writer credits for Benmont Tench and regular collaborator Annie Roboff.
A number of other Nashville writers have pursued careers as artists, but usually without much success, but Chapman - who might not have the voice of some of those she writes for - brings an authenticity to her songs, and that's what makes this album such a joy.Rated:
by Reviewer: BBC Music
(blogging at BBC Music