True North the latest album from living legend amongst us Michael Chapman feels like a collection of songs that were written in a series of motel rooms, and not the kind of places you would like to stay in unless you absolutely had to. They are the kind of lodgings that you imagine have the shades perpetually drawn, are strewn with empty bottles of cheap booze, and have ashtrays that are overflowing with cigarette butts.
It’s a record that sounds populated by ghosts and regret with the 78 year old Chapman ruminating on all of fate’s cruel twists, and roads not taken. A dark and vital collection of songs that boast a masterfully spare production courtesy of Steve Gunn. Most of the time, it’s just Chapman’s time worn voice accompanied by his beautifully down-tuned acoustic guitar ringing clear as a bell against oblivion. It’s stripped bare with just the right amount of accompaniment; some of the best of it coming from the pedal steel of BJ Cole whose playing adds a haunting element to the proceedings, cellist Sarah Smout’s ethereal strings, and Bridget St John’s occasional vocal turns which shine especially on “Full Bottle, Empty Heart.”
The lyrics on True North are direct, and they cut deep. Chapman sounds like a man who doesn’t have the time for the bullshit anymore, and seems painfully aware of the clock running out. It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.
Buy the album from Paradise of Bachelors.