I dreamed the blacksnake rode the guitar
Down the river
– Frank Stanford, “The Singing Knives” (1971)
We are humbled today to share some very special news about one of our longtime heroes. We’re proud—and still somewhat incredulous—to announce that on January 20, 2017, four days before his seventy-sixth birthday, we will release the new record by the iconic Michael Chapman, long an influence on the Bachelors’ aesthetic and artists.
After five decades of recording and touring, veteran British songwriter and guitar sage Chapman has finally made what he calls his “American record”—his first in years with a full band—and the aptly titled 50 now stands as his late career masterwork, a moving legacy statement by a legend. Backed by a collaborative group of friends and acolytes—Steve Gunn (who also produced), Nathan Bowles (Pelt), James Elkington (Jeff Tweedy), Jason Meagher (No-Neck Blues Band), Jimy SeiTang (Rhyton), and fellow UK songwriting luminary Bridget St John—Chapman tears into both bold renderings of new songs and radical reinterpretations of material from his revered catalog, the crack band adeptly scaling the same rarefied sonic heights of classic Harvest albums like Fully Qualified Survivor (1970), guided by a true survivor’s instinct, wit, and wisdom. The result is a sublime chiaroscuro self-portrait, more shadow than light, as an invigorated Chapman wrestles with weighty themes of travel, memory, mortality, and redemption, his world-weary whispers assuming the incandescent power of prophecy.
Today, NPR Music’s Songs We Love premiered “mesmeric” lead single “That Time of Night“ alongside a beautiful essay about the song. Listen here, or on our website, where you can also pre-order the album.
“Amid a chiming, atmospheric mix of acoustic- and electric-guitar arpeggios as autumnal as the lyrics, Chapman’s appealingly leathery, lived-in voice — not dissimilar to that of late fellow traveler John Martyn — takes a backward glance at a long line of memories that are part of a “thread that can’t be broken” running through all of our lives. Brilliantly and succinctly capturing the blend of world-weary toughness and emotional vulnerability that is crucial to the song, Chapman at one point sings, “You know I don’t scare easy,” before displaying a master’s sense of timing by waiting a beat before adding the punchline, “but I do get scared.”
After 75 years on the planet, and 50 spent putting his reflections to music, Chapman may have developed a thick skin, but the soul inside of it can still speak to the uncertainty that lives in all of us. Still, even in the midst of the dark night of the soul he conjures up here, Chapman remains defiant and unapologetic. For all his regrets and misgivings, he nevertheless declares, “Take me for what I am or not at all,” fully owning the place on the planet he has come to occupy after all these years. By the time the cyclical barroom piano line in the tune’s coda starts repeating, it feels as though the hazy, dreamlike reverie Chapman has been moving through is beginning to tumble over itself and spirit him off with its ragged momentum — either to dive more deeply into this dream, or to begin another one.”
– Jim Allen, NPR Music
WATCH THE ALBUM TRAILER
The deluxe LP package includes tip-on jacket, printed inner sleeve, lyrics, and a download card with two bonus tracks; the CD features a gatefold jacket, lyrics, and two non-LP bonus tracks. Contingent on manufacturing timelines, pre-orders should ship about a week in advance of the January 20, 2017 release date.
Watch the album trailer above or visit the album page for more details on this historic release.
ACCLAIM FOR MICHAEL CHAPMAN
“A master guitarist and songwriter … The godfather of experimental rock guitar … Calls to mind the fabled intricacy of Pentangle heavy-hitters John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, the muscular authority of Jimmy Page, and the maverick edge of Roy Harper, without once compromising its own indisputably Chapman-esque character. Anyone who thinks Jim O’Rourke was the first to combine rock structures, world-weary vocals, American Primitive-tinged guitar instrumentals, and avant-garde noise interludes is in for a shock.” – MOJO
“A world-class songwriter. Terrifically unpredictable … beyond any genre tag.” – Pitchfork
“He shreds on acoustic guitar the way Kandinsky wails with a paintbrush.” – Thurston Moore
“Acute emotional reporting in a gruff seaman-poet’s voice, supported by the quiet ingenious strength of his acoustic-guitar motifs.” – Rolling Stone
“A master … a distinctive talent who stands comparisons to John Fahey.” – Uncut
“The sound of a real songwriter who’s lived a real life and all that entails.” – Q
Click here to read testimonials from more fellow artists and acolytes such as Steve Gunn, Bridget St John, William Tyler, Nathan Bowles, Itasca, Mike Cooper, and Daniel Bachman.
MICHAEL CHAPMAN ON TOUR
Nov. 16: Faversham Folk Club – Faversham, UK
Nov. 17: Prince Albert – Brighton, UK
Nov. 18: Hinckley ACT – Hinckley, UK
Nov. 19: High & Lonesome Festival 2016 – Leeds, UK
Nov. 20: Music Room, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall – Liverpool, UK
Nov. 26: Antigel Festival 2016 – Geneva, Switzerland
You can peruse all PoB-related tour dates here.