Yorkshire artists pay tribute to fellow Yorkshire artist Michael Chapman with mixed results.
Michael Chapman was a British singer-songwriter and virtuosic guitar player who passed away in September 2021. He has released over 50 albums, but it would be fair to say his most well-known ones were recorded for the ‘Harvest’ Record label at the beginning of the 70s. This tribute album on ‘Tompkins Square Records’ comes 11 years after a previous tribute album called ‘Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done: Friends Play Michael Chapman’ with the stellar lineup of Lucinda Williams, Maddy Prior, Hiss Golden Messenger and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore’ among others.
This time ‘Tompkins Square’ have decided to make this 8-track compilation decidedly Yorkshire-based and chosen artists from the folk and experimental scene in that area. They purposely have chosen artists a little under the radar. It’s a very imaginative collection and diverse as well, 4 out of the 8 tracks being instrumental. Katie Spencer, who never fails to impress, sings ‘You Say’ which with her distinctive acoustic guitar playing and vocal delivers the most straightforward and beautiful of recordings. ‘Hawthorn’ gets the prize for the most way out recording with ’Kodak Ghosts’. A stark, radically de-constructed imagining of this tale of loneliness and false promises from ‘Fully Qualified Survivor’. Does it work? No. The original song is gorgeous. This version strays too far from the original that only the same name connects the songs.
A highlight on the other hand is Henry Parker’s take on ‘In the Valley’. A song indebted to ‘Chapman’s’ days working as a woodsman’, like Katie Spencer, the guitar work is masterful. Dean McPhee’s contribution is another instrumental ‘Caddo Lake’. A soundscape of electric swirling guitar and ambience that feels like a stroll around the beauty of the Yorkshire landscape. Bobby Lee’s cosmic country take on ‘Heat Index’ is groovy but a little repetitive. Holly Blackshaw’s ‘March Rain’ is another soundscape swirling guitar number with an ethereal vocal to make it more interesting than essential. ‘(Some) Trains’ by Andrew DR Abbott’shows off his highly technical skill as a guitarist but could have been edited a little from its 6-minute length while Chris Brain’s ‘Among the Trees’ restores the pastoral balance with a straightforward acoustic guitar and vocal number that savours the endless hours of being amidst nature and trees.
It’s a very original take on a covers album and on the work of Michael Chapman and Admiration should be given for attempting to stray from the note-by-note copying that some cover version album do but it’s hard to imagine this ticking every box if you are a fan of Chapman’s music.