Beth Nielsen Chapman Back to Love Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A joyous collection of skilfully-written songs delivered in the most relaxed way.

Nick Barraclough 2010

All those bedsitter songwriters, the angst-ridden 22-year-olds trying to drum up a bit of convincing emotion in their forced lyrics, should use Beth Nielsen Chapman’s new album as a case study. You need to live first.

She’s been through it, has Beth. Her husband died from cancer in 1994. She has subsequently had a brush with the disease herself, and more recently an operation for a benign brain tumour.

On the back of all that you could be excused for bracing yourself for a pretty heavy time, but this is a writer and performer who knows about celebrating survival, and the result is a joyous collection of skilfully-written, happy songs delivered in the most relaxed way (there’s even the odd giggle), which almost belies the incredibly high standard of performance and production.

Some would accuse Chapman of taking the country out of a few Nashville artists and replacing it with what is basically straight-down-the-line pop. Faith Hill’s huge hit This Kiss was one of Beth’s, and she’s written for many other country artists too, such as Trisha Yearwood, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson. But she has also been picked up by the likes of Elton John, Neil Diamond and Michael McDonald.

This new collection is, despite her Nashville base, a pop album, though acoustic instruments, particularly mandolin, abound; and her affection for a Celtic connection shows at one point with the inclusion of accordion and whistles. She is obviously in a position to call upon Music City’s finest musicians, and they don’t come much finer than those assembled here, with co-writer credits for the likes of the Benmont Tench and regular collaborator Annie Roboff.

A number of other Nashville writers have pursued careers as artists, but usually without much success. But Beth, who might not have the voice of some of those she writes for, brings an authenticity to her songs, and it makes this album such a joy.

Beth has been championed by the likes of Terry Wogan and Ken Bruce over the years, and rightly so. Americans looking to sell in this country should take note: stadium-filling, posturing, superficial artists don’t travel so well. But considered, intelligent artists with this sort of integrity always will.

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