A master guitarist and songwriter - ¦ The godfather of experimental rock guitar' MOJO
'A world-class songwriter. Terrifically unpredictable - ¦ beyond any genre tag' Pitchfork.
After five decades of recording and touring, veteran British songwriter and guitar sage Michael Chapman has finally made what he calls his "American record," and the aptly titled 50 now stands as his late career masterwork, a moving legacy statement by a legend.
Backed by a collaborative group of friends and acolytes - Steve Gunn (who also produced), Nathan Bowles (Pelt, Black Twig Pickers), James Elkington (Jeff Tweedy, Richard Thompson), Jason Meagher (No-Neck Blues Band), Jimy SeiTang (Rhyton), and fellow UK songwriting luminary Bridget St John - Chapman tears into both bold renderings of new songs and radical reinterpretations of material from his revered catalog, the crack band adeptly scaling the same rarefied sonic heights of classic Harvest albums like Fully Qualified Survivor, guided by a true survivor's instinct, wit, and wisdom.
The result is a sublime chiaroscuro self-portrait, more shadow than light, as an invigorated Chapman wrestles with weighty themes of t ravel, memory, mortality, and redemption, his world-weary whispers assuming the incandescent power of prophecy.
The deluxe LP package includes tip-on jacket, printed inner sleeve, lyrics, and download card with two bonus tracks; the CD features a gatefold jacket, lyrics, and two non-LP bonus tracks.
The album includes both radical reinterpretations of obscure material from Michael's catalog as well as three new compositions: 'Sometimes You Just Drive,' 'Money Trouble,' and 'Rosh Pina.' A longstanding but freshly urgent preoccupation with (as Michael sings in a beloved early tune) 'time past and time passing' is evident straightaway, from the album title and the first line of the first song through the final lyric of the record. Never before in his storied career has Chapman gazed so steadily into the abyss of time lost and regained; never before has he engaged so intimately with his legacy and the changing meanings of his own music over time.
That he manages to do so without succumbing to nostalgia or sentimentality bears testament to the steely fortitude of his ruminative, tough-minded songs, which survey both inscape and landscape with the same stoical detachment. With 50, Chapman faces mortality with both guitar and chainsaw in hand, and endures.
It's the unguarded sound of Orpheus descending, the snake riding the guitar down the river Styx and returning upstream to tell his story.
1. "A Spanish Incident (RamÃ"n & Durango)
2. "Sometimes You Just Drive
3. "The Mallard
4. "Memphis in Winter
1. "The Prospector
2. "Falling from Grace
3. "Money Trouble
4. "That Time of Night