Beth Nielsen Chapman

Back to Love

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Chapman calls Back to Love her return to pop music, and while it does have some pop studio sheen on it, Chapman's never been a writer known for cheap sentiment or throwaway rhymes, or as a singer known for her bright commercial outlook. So while Back to Love does contain a few tunes like "More Than Love" and "Even As It All Goes By," which sound like they could be mainstream hits, her songs tend to deal with love in a more realistic, adult manner than your average radio-ready pop ditty. There's a deep emotional intelligence and an almost religious tone shining through every lyric. Even on a song called "Happiness" she's wise enough to balance the giddy dance of new love with the hard-earned wisdom of the soul's darkest moments. Her acoustic guitar plays a simple, affecting folk melody to support a lyric full of brightness and despair. "Shadows" is an intimate ballad that explores the bittersweet moments when the thought of a past love is all that stands between your heart and the darkness. Her vocal here is heartbreaking. "I Need You Love" shows off Chapman's striking command of language by combining a simple, folky tune with kaleidoscopic images that tumble through the air like colorful autumn leaves that suggest both the coming winter and the promise of another spring. While most of the songs are tempered by the reality of love's limitations, Chapman does have moments when she cuts loose to dive deeply into love's jubilation. "Hallelujah" is not the Leonard Cohen song, but a co-write with Darrell Scott, another longtime Nashville pro. He contributes slide guitar and backing vocals to an almost religious expression. Scott plays a short slide solo, in the manner of George Harrison, to bring the tune to an ebullient conclusion. "I Can See Me Loving You" features Chapman on bouzouki with Scott again supplying harmonies. It's bluegrass with a hint of pop, full of the flush of new love. The tune with the most hit potential is "More Than Love," a stomping country-rocker with a syncopated backbeat that brings to mind the handclap rhythms of a '60s girl group single. Danny Flowers supplies the tune's sharp electric guitar fills.

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