Michael Chapman: Time Past & Time Passing

By: Dennis Cook

While the name Michael Chapman may be unfamiliar to a mass audience, amongst serious guitar enthusiasts this Brit ranks right next to Richard Thompson, John Martyn and Davy Graham. But unlike his countrymen, Chapman has heaping helpings of John Fahey and even the pleasant aerial wisp of early Windham Hill players like Michael Hedges and Will Ackerman. His latest release in a long career stretching back to the 1960s is sonorous, end-to-end pleasure, mixing mesmerizing instrumentals with breathy, weathered ruminations. Opening cut "A Stranger's Map of Texas/The Twisted Road" issues forth an incredibly lovely guitar figure and the simple, repeated observation, "I never thought it'd be this way." There's a reflective quality to the lyrics, delivered in a voice that's somewhere between Nathan Moore and Leonard Cohen, a well smoked sound that's penetratingly effective despite its gossamer nature. His picking here is far less highfalutin' than his rep might suggest. Oh, he's doing stuff on the strings that most mortals couldn't accomplish but Chapman also brings in the pleasures of country blues, rock feedback and pre-war folk, snatching elements that appeal to him and knitting them into a whole that's surprisingly approachable. And this warm character – sometimes suggesting a backcountry Durutti Column, whose Vini Reilly is an obvious descendent of Chapman's - is what makes Time Past & Time Passing (Electric Ragtime Records/Ryko) such a fantastic listen, where technique and experience serve pleasurable music and avoid the usual showy displays many masters fall prey to.

JamBase | Sonorous
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[Published on: 3/26/09]

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