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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Beth Nielsen Chapman

Look

Review by Steve Alspach

Well, man cannot live on prog rock alone. Believe me, I've tried. Once in a while you have to ratchet things down a notch or three, and there's something to be said for a good, solid song that is well-constructed that stands on its own merits. Beth Nielsen Chapman has mastered the art of writing accessible songs. Her credits include songwriting for more artists than can be mentioned here. On her latest album, Look, Beth has joined forces with some well-known collaborators like Allan Shamblin, David Wilcox and Eric Kaz. Maybe it's a sign that I'm getting soft, but there's a place in my CD collection for Beth Nielsen Chapman, and you may find room in yours as well.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Trying to Love You
A soft, acoustic folk-rock number, "Trying to Love You" is an example of how to get mileage out of a song with some rather simple ideas.
Right Back Into The Feeling
You can't get more blue-eyed soul than Michael McDonald, and he joins Beth on a number that sounds like it has one foot in rock and the other in Motown.
Look
If Beth wasn't playing piano on this, she could drape herself across one while singing this jazzy ballad, whose acoustic bass and strings harkens to the old standards of the 30s and 40s.
Free
As good as Beth's softer songs are, she does well enough on the rock end as well. "Free" is an amalgam of ideas (she jokingly said that part of the song was inspired by that goofy "Break My Stride" song of the early eighties) that would do well on the radio.
Touch My Heart
Turn the lights down for this one, a piano ballad with upright bass and a soft string arrangement to accompany.
Time Won't Tell
Does a pedal steel guitar make a song country? This slow piece has Michael McDonald pitching on the occasional backing vocal.
Will and Liz
Co-written with ex-NRBQer Al Andersen and David Baerwald, this tale of two doomed young lovers rocks out and sounds a bit like Sheryl Crow or Jonathan Brooke, but Nielsen's singing is clearer than Crow's and her simple phrasing provides the catch.
Who We Are
A gentle ballad that looks at forgiveness, Emily Saliers makes a guest appearance on backing vocals.
Your Love Stays
This is a prime example of getting a lot out of a little. "Your Love Stays" is a rather simple song in melody and chord construction, but the harmonies and Dan Dugmore's understated dobro solo are nice embellishments in this country-folk exploration.
The Reason
Beth continues the slow acoustic pieces. This song has some slight jazzy tones in it that put it past most folk-country songs.
I Find Your Love
This closer has Beth on piano and accompanied with strings.
 
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