tue 22/10/2019

Beth Nielsen Chapman, Cadogan Hall review - Nashville chats | reviews, news & interviews

Beth Nielsen Chapman, Cadogan Hall review - Nashville chats

Beth Nielsen Chapman, Cadogan Hall review - Nashville chats

Writer of hits for Willie Nelson and Waylon Jenning goes on a musical tour through the years

Beth Nielsen Chapman: a natural on stage

There were empty seats at Cadogan Hall on Thursday night which was a crying shame, for Beth Nielsen Chapman was in town and she played a wonderful set, full of warmth and charm and powerful singing, her voice always true and expressive. Chapman is one of those artists who seems completely at home on stage – casual, natural, down-to-earth, creating the intimate atmosphere of Nashville’s Bluebird Café. This was Beth unplugged, no gimmicks (unlike a disappointing Barbican gig some 15 years ago), accompanying herself mostly on guitar and occasionally on piano in a perfectly paced 90-minute set.

She dug deep into her song-bag, its contents spanning almost 40 years and including hits for artists as diverse as Bette Midler and Willie Nelson – “This Kiss”, co-written with Robin Lerner and Annie Roboff, is perhaps her best-known, a major hit for Faith Hill. Almost every song was prefaced with a story – how she came to write it and for whom. The thrill of hearing Nelson on the radio for the first time singing “Nothing I Can Do About It Now” caused her to drive clean through a red light. “The royalties paid the fine.”

In honour of the Scouse contingent, the show closed with a snatch of 'All You Need Is Love'

Hearts of Glass, her newly released album, was well represented with songs such as “Life Holds On”, “Enough for Me”, “Old Church Hymns and Nursery Rhymes” and “Come to Mine” among the highlights. “Rage on Rage”, recorded originally 25 years ago on You Hold the Key, which takes its cue from a story her mother told her, has lost none of its power, the economy of the lyrics speaking understated volumes about a drunken, violent relationship.

Chapman touched too on the writing process itself, the time it can take to write a song: “Epitaph for Love” marinaded over 18 years, and she wasn’t sure for much of the time what it was about, finishing it only after a row with her husband led them both to (successful) couples counselling. “Sand and Water”, magnificent and memorable, written after the death of her first husband, “came so quickly. I just wrote it down, my world opened up by grief.”

The evening’s star-in-the-making was Ruth Trimble, a Boots pharmacist (she jokes that she’s into “music and drugs”) from Northern Ireland who wrote songs as a hobby until one of them won her a place on a Beth Nielsen Chapman song-writing course in Nashville. She took time out of her job to record her debut album, Things I Want to Say, and has recently released her third, Before the Rain. A multi-instrumentalist, she played electric bass for much of the concert, simultaneously adding hands-free percussive touches with a foot tambourine and drum, and occasionally subtle keyboard infills. She also enjoyed her moment in the spotlight, singing at the piano. When Chapman returned to the stage, she carried a large chocolate cake and led a chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Trimble, who dipped a finger in and licked it appreciatively.

The evening’s official support was Robert Vincent, a UK Americana Album of the Year winner who hails from Liverpool. “Whispering” Bob Harris, who introduced the show, spoke in superlatives about him but since his lyrics were largely inaudible it was hard to make a qualitative judgement, even though Beth Nielsen Chapman lavished praise on his songwriting skills. Perhaps she could teach him how to “be” on stage, for Vincent lacked presence and frankly looked rather bored. His backing vocals were lost in the mix.

The show ended with Red Sky July, who toured with Chapman last year, summoned to the stage to join BNC, Trimble, Vincent and Robbie Taylor, an excellent fiddle, mandolin and banjo player (also from Liverpool), for “This Kiss”. In honour of the Scouse contingent, the show closed with a snatch of “All You Need Is Love”.

Liz Thomson's website

'Sand and Water', magnificent and memorable, written after the death of her first husband, 'came so quickly. I just wrote it down, my world opened up by grief'


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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