Michael Chapman

Trainsong: Guitar Compositions, 1967-2010

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Serving as both accomplished career overview and a live-in-the-studio effort that covers two and a half hours and over 40 years of work, Trainsong is a seemingly effortless release, such is the apparent delicacy and grace of Michael Chapman's performing throughout. As Charles Shaar Murray's combatively entertaining liner notes acknowledge, Chapman couldn't play at least one favored piece due to a recent injury. What is on offer, however, is the kind of reflective, elegant playing on both acoustic and electric guitar one would expect from any instrumentalist after decades of experience. From the start, the tender flow of notes on "The Last Polish Breakfast," almost a portrait of sunrise on sparkling water, Chapman seems to be both celebrating his past and claiming a space in the present. His brief liner notes on each piece, containing tuning and year of composition, show both the directness of possible inspirations and a sharp sense of humor. One killer one from "Theme from the Movie of the Same Name": "…I decided to write an acoustic guitar disco instrumental. God help me!" Songs like "Uncle Jack/Looking for Charlie" and "Naked Ladies and Electric Ragtime" bring in flat-out merriment -- not surprising in the latter case given that it was titled after what Chapman called an answer to a question about his favorite things back in the 1960s. One of his sprightliest numbers, "Sweet Little Friend from Georgia," is a tribute to the guitar it was written and performed on, a 1963 Gibson. His tributes to fellow performers are among the best -- "Fahey's Flag" has a high, steel guitar twang to it that captures the legendary Blind Joe Death's embrace of the old and distinctive, and its shifts to alternately slower and faster tempos give the feeling of a woozy old turntable. The engaging "Thurston's House" is indeed about a time spent staying with Mr. Moore and Kim Gordon in 2006, while the brisk but still melancholy "Trying Times" is described as a tribute to Jack Rose. Elsewhere, his take on Tom Rush's "Rockport Sunday," evolving through what he calls "the folk process" into his own distinct arrangement, helps to solidify his own clear sound, at once tender and entrancing.

blue highlight denotes track pick