Friday, June 22, 2012

Oh Michael...2012's best covers album

I wrote about the Michael Chapman tribute once before, shortly after I received it, but it's a grower, and I like it, oh, maybe three or four times as much now that I've listened to it a few times.

My review is up at Blurt today.

Various Artists

Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done: Friends Play Michael Chapman

(Tompkins Square)

Not long ago, Michael Chapman was a lot of people's favorite overlooked folk singer, the gruff voiced, lyrically-fingered veteran of the 1970s folk revival that never seemed to have gotten his due. Well received reissues of Fully Qualified Survivor and Rainmaker, as well as tours with younger pickers like Jack Rose (now sadly gone), have righted the balance.

Oh Michael, Look What You've Done goes one step further, gathering contemporaries, admirers and bill sharers to reinterpret Chapman's songs. It is a lovely tribute, one which allows the beauty of the songs to shine through multiple lenses and illuminate various facets of Chapman's appeal. There is a floor-stomping, string-band-style romp from Rose's former band, the Black Twig Pickers, Takoma-style reinvocations of the man's guitar skills from William Tyler and Nick Jonah Davis, and a heart-wrecked and luminous cover of "That Time of Night" from Lucinda Williams (with Doug Pettibone evoking Chapman's eerie, haunted guitar work). Chapman's own generation of folk revivalists kick in some of the album's most gorgeous moments, with Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span finding a shape-note spirituality in Chapman's song "The Prospector" and Bridget St. John quietly, understatedly killing on "Rabbit Hills."


Hiss Golden Messenger - "Fennario" (Michael Chapman)

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