thu 24/05/2018

CD: Beth Nielsen Chapman - Hearts of Glass | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Beth Nielsen Chapman - Hearts of Glass

CD: Beth Nielsen Chapman - Hearts of Glass

Old gold and new on her first studio album in four years

Beth Nielsen Chapman: her songs have been recorded by a diverse range of artists

In a career spanning almost 40 years, Beth Nielsen Chapman has been sparing with her album releases. She’s been twice nominated for Grammys and many may still think of her as primarily a songwriter: “This Kiss”, of which she was co-writer, was a big hit for Faith Hill and artists as blue-chip, and as diverse, as Bette Midler, Waylon Jennings, Bonnie Raitt and Elton John have recorded her songs. So Americana-plus.

Hearts of Glass is her 13th album – if you don’t count Greatest Hits (1999) and Liv On (2016), an album of hope and healing recorded with fellow breast cancer survivor Olivia Newton John and Amy Sky, who suffered the loss of a child to cancer – and her first since Uncovered (2014). It’s a mix of new and some old songs (including the poignant and beautiful “Child Again”, about the twilight years, “If My World Didn’t Have You” on which Rodney Crowell provides backing vocals) and while nothing compares to the majesty and profundity of “Sand and Water” from the 1997 album of the same name (nor should it, for it followed the death of her husband from cancer and the birth of a son who would scarcely knew his father) this is a satisfying and cohesive outing, her distinctive, warm and always true voice to the fore.

Two (new) songs connect BNC’s past and present stories: “Epitaph for Love”, in which she reflects on the pain of loss and finding love again, and “You’re Still My Valentine”, which hints at the illness of her second husband (“Hold tight my darlin’… Whatever life brings/You’re still my valentine”), though happily he is now in remission. “Valentine” has a wonderfully retro feel in terms of both sound and construction – a rich harmonic palette, with the augmented and diminished chords beloved of jazzmen but not so much Nashville cats; shifts from major to minor; Sam Ashworth’s brushes and Jeff Taylor’s accordion.

It was Whispering Bob Harris who introduced BNC to Ashworth and in addition to playing drums, percussion, guitar, synth and backing vocals he also produced the album, which was recorded in the singer-songwriter’s home town of Nashville. The CD features a gate-fold sleeve containing a large fold-out, with all the credits and lyrics actually readable. It can be done!

In a springtime of releases (and tours) by outstanding women (Joan Baez, Gretchen Peters, Mary Gauthier), it would be hard to decide where to spend your money if you’re short of it. I would never be without Baez (a moving album with which to close her 60-year career: more anon) and I’ve yet to hear the others. But for me Hearts of Glass is a keeper.

Liz Thomson's website



Nothing compares to the majesty and profundity of “Sand and Water” but this is a satisfying and cohesive outing, her distinctive, warm and always true voice to the fore

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