Beth Nielsen Chapman
Proper Records 2014
Review by David Bowling
Beth Nielsen Chapman has been a noted songwriter since the 1980’s. Her compositions have been covered by dozens of artists including Faith Hill, Willie Nelson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Alabama, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Waylon Jennings, and Tanya Tucker among others. Her own albums are more adult contemporary that veers toward a folk approach upon occasion.
Her past albums have been laid-back affairs. Listening to her subtle approach is always a relaxing experience as the simple melodies and incisive lyrics wash over you. There has been a consistency to her releases in the past, which makes her new album so interesting and ultimately one of the strongest of her career.
Uncovered is primarily an album of duets, which itself is not unique. She covers many of her songs that were sung by other artists. Many are changed in tempo and format and when combined with her choice of partners takes her outside of her past comfort zone with excellent results.
“Here We Are” was originally covered by Alabama but now she and partner Vince Gill transfer it to an up-tempo tune with a little bite courtesy of Gill’s guitar. Chapman displays a good vocal range as she brings this country song close to rock and roll. It is melodic, catchy, and emerges as one of the better performances of her career.
One of the better pairings is Jesse Colter-Jennings and Duane Eddy on “Sweet Love Shine.” The duet between the two women has sweetness to it but the treat is Eddy’s signature twangy guitar rumbling underneath.
“Pray” with Amy Grant and Muriel Anderson and “Maybe That’s All It Takes” with Darrell Scott are ballads that have become part of her concert act for decades. The duet partners, however, shed new light on the songs and reveal different textures.
Her best known composition, “The Kiss,” made famous by Faith Hill is presented by a threesome including Ruth Trimble and Edith Paterson. Add in “Simple Things” with Kim Carnes, “Five Minutes” with Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, and the girl power finale of “Almost Home” with Gretchen Peters, Suzi Bogguss, and Matraca Berg and you have a consistently excellent album.
Beth Nielsen Chapman has taken a different path with Uncovered and produced one of the signature albums of her career. If you want to hear her stretch vocally and re-interpret some of her own compositions then this album will be a treat.