Archive for September, 2021

MICHAEL CHAPMAN REMEMBERED

Friday, September 10th, 2021

Michael Chapman’s guitar playing slays me ! It is HIGHLY unusual for someone to play guitar that well and ALSO possess such keen songwriting skills. Also in his quiver was a voice that could express exactly what it needed to, timeless because he always sounded weary and craggy even in his twenties. He was just the complete package in a way that so few others really ever are. He was a great, expressive instrumentalist – bluesy with dark, minor shading – a crafty songwriter – especially his Harvest records – but there is plenty of later stuff to explore too. All the twists and different styles !

‘Leaving the Apple’ from Imaginational Anthem vol 2 (2006) is that kind of signature MC evocative instrumental just stacked with gravitas, levitation and emotion, maybe my favorite of his. It SOARS ! It is so, so heavy.

I became aware of Michael Chapman from Jack Rose, saw Michael open for Jack at the Knitting Factory, and that’s the first time we spoke. We decided to release some career-spanning instrumental recordings of his as a double-CD in 2010, ‘Trainsong’, his first official stateside release in many years. While we were putting it together, I learned that Light in the Attic were not only reissuing some of the Harvest records, but they were doing so in the same month as ‘Trainsong‘. It was fortuitous, as a whole load of press came down, and that started Michael’s “renaissance” as the newer breed of artists were becoming aware of Michael’s genius. Tompkins Square released ‘Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done” which combined some of his wife Andru’s tracks she’d assembled by MC’s contemporaries for his 70th birthday, along with some new tracks that I sought out. Thurston Moore, Hiss Golden Messenger, William Tyler, many more stepped up. Michael was especially touched and honored by Lucinda’s rendition of ‘That Time of Night’, which we released as a split 10″ for Record Store Day one year.

In 2015, Michael graciously flew out to NYC’s Rough Trade to play the Tompkins Square 10th Anniv show with Ryley Walker and Bob Brown. We released his solo album ‘Fish‘ around this time (his final solo acoustic album ?), which featured his tribute to Jack Rose, “Jack.” He was so flattened by Jack’s death as they had such a close bond. About a year ago, Michael sent me a CDR of ‘Another Fish’, intended as a follow up of sorts. The recording quality is so rough that I was not interested in releasing it – I need to listen again….

I will always cherish the time I spent with Michael at my home in SF and in NYC. The experience was similar to working with Charlie Louvin. The stories, the legacy, I was simply in awe of everything he had done, and there was so much road in his rear view mirror that you really felt like you were talking to a ghost sometimes. He was really in tune with younger musicians, and his love for Andru was always apparent. I think he’d be the first to admit she kept him going perhaps longer than anyone had a right to expect.

What an honor to share some time with you, Michael. We’ll be listening forever.

JR.