Wednesday, 13 October 2010

An evening with Beth Nielsen Chapman

I first discovered the music of Beth Nielsen Chapman in 1997, after the release of her third album "Sand And Water". The title track, plus one or two other songs from the album, were getting lots of air play on Radio 2, mostly via Terry Wogan and Bob Harris. Beth had lost her husband Ernest to cancer in 1994, which rendered the content of the album (much of which had actually been written prior to that time) even more poignant than it might otherwise have been. I was totally blown away by it, in every way imaginable. Musically, lyrically and melodically, it was packed full of achingly beautiful songs - some sad, some happy, but each one very uplifting in its own way. 

The release of Sand And Water was all part of a long healing process for Beth, and subsequent albums have continued the trend. Not that things have always been plain sailing for her since then - her own battle with breast cancer in 2000, plus the removal of a (thankfully non-malignant) brain tumour in 2009 means that she has been dealt more than her fair share of setbacks in life. But those setbacks seems only to spur her on to keep producing music of the very highest order. Beth isn't prolific - at least in terms of her own album releases, of which there have been eight, plus a "greatest hits" compilation since 1990 - but there is not one song on any of them that isn't a worthy one. She also writes songs for other artisists (perhaps the best-known being "This Kiss" by Faith Hill and "Strong Enough To Bend" by Tanya Tucker).

But it is as an artist and live performer in her own right that Beth Nielsen Chapman excels. She has a very loyal (and growing) following in the UK and tours regularly these days. I first saw her perform live at an intimate little venue in Nottingham that holds barely more than 200 people. It was a truly magical evening that I will remember for a very long time - and I got to meet her afterwards! That was in 2004, and I have been lucky enough to see her perform a further three times, the most recent of which was last Friday at the Warwick Arts Centre. This time, she was accompanied by her trusty old friend Maartin Allcock (formerly of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull) on bass, plus two delightful young Irish ladies whom Beth had discovered via one of her songwriting workshops; Eilidh Patterson (pronounced "I-Lee"), on guitars and harmony vocals and Ruth Trimble on piano, keyboards, bass and harmony vocals. And I'll tell you what - those two ladies between them have more talent than all of the so-called "talent" discovered in umpteen series of X Factor. They were brilliant, and I wouldn't be surprised to see both of them go on to have very successful solo careers as singer-songwriters. In fact, Beth gave them their own mini set in the middle of the performance and I was so impressed, I bought both of their CD's after the show - and I got to meet them, too (as well as Beth, once again)!

Yours truly, with the lovely and very talented Eilidh Patterson after the show

......and with the equally lovely and talented Ruth Trimble

.....and with the amazing Beth Nielsen Chapman

I'm not a music reviewer, so I won't go into detail about the show itself, other than to say that Beth was on top form and performed many of her best-known songs, plus a good number of songs from her latest album, "Back To Love", in a set that lasted two hours. All-in-all, it was a great night. If you want to know more about Beth Nielsen Chapman, check out her website. You can also hear some of the songs from the latest album on the music page. In an ideal world, she would be a very (very) big star. But in the real world, Beth Nielsen Chapman remains a well-kept secret amonst her loyal legion of fans.

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