Grown Up (A Revisionist History)
Artist: The Chapmans
Label: Compass Records
Time: 13 tracks/44 min.
In celebration of twenty years together as a professional family bluegrass band, the Chapmans put together this best-of compilation, along with two new songs. The other eleven tracks are newly recorded versions of existing recordings, hence the “Revisionist” tag in the title.
This is heartfelt, beyond-workmanlike bluegrass. The playing is flawless, and you won’t find a note out of place. John Chapman handles almost all of the lead vocals, and he has a clean, high tenor that resonates with feeling and clarity. You won’t have any trouble making out the words, that’s for sure.
The focus here is on the songs, and what a great bunch of tunes they are.
It’s always a treat to hear a Buck Owens interpretation, and the Chapmans really nail his “Love’s Gonna Live Here.” If you’re feeling down, put this track on, it should do the trick.
I hear echoes of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli on “El Cumbanchero,” the lone instrumental on the album. The Chapmans wed gypsy jazz guitar and violin with bluegrass to eye-popping (and ear-popping) effect. There is also a Mexican band influence at work here, which was probably the idea in the first place, but whatever the case may be, they manage this hybrid smoothly, especially when it rockets into orbit. A stand-out track.
“I Wanna Be Loved Like That” is an epic, in the bluegrass form, if you can imagine that, and another outstanding effort. The measure and cost of true love is examined in three poignant portraits, which are as poetic as they are moving. When the coda comes in, after a few seconds of silence, it is surprising and unlike anything I’ve ever heard in a bluegrass song. A string quartet arrangement that is absent of gimmick or novelty, it ends the album on a high note.
With few exceptions, most of the remaining songs on the release are nearly as good. The Chapmans have a contender here, one that should cement their existing fan base and bring them a whole new flock of admirers.
Gary D. Kersey