Beth Nielsen Chapman,
(Compass, 2005)

Beth Nielsen Chapman's heartfelt songs reflect a wealth of experience and emotion. Look is a delightful collection, and Chapman is never more affecting than when she's in "confessional" mode -- those emotive breaks in her voice are quite captivating. Her vocal style on occasion puts me in mind of those classic U.S. musical singers of the '50s, particularly on emotional songs like "Look" and the very beautiful "The Reason."

There's a strong rootsy feel to "Trying to Love You," which makes for near perfect listening. Hammond, guitars and drums conspire brilliantly to give a rock feel to "Will & Liz." Chapman is always on top form when in celebratory mood -- "Free" is the most gloriously uplifting song, with a cracking set of lyrics and fantastic percussion and backing vocals. You revel in her freedom as she joyfully rants: "I've passed my graduation, I hold my Ph.D. in crash test blues, I've paid those dues...." A hugely upbeat chorus has you word-perfect in no time!

The album is tastefully arranged and, instrumentally, everything is in its correct place -- Chapman's finely crafted piano or acoustic guitar introductions are invariably supplemented by her clear, passionate vocal, exquisite string arrangements and a fine backing band. I particularly like the way drums, percussion, Hammond, bass and electric guitar complement each other so successfully throughout.

These songs speak eloquently and emotionally of life, love in all its guises, and they're beautifully sung and composed. Chapman has an unwavering ability to connect with her listener through her voice and its many nuances -- this is an album of many moods.

by Debbie Koritsas
17 December 2005

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