CD Review – Marshall Chapman “Blaze of Glory”
On her last album, “Big Lonesome,” Marshall Chapman eulogized and celebrated her dear friend and musical soul-mate, Tim Krekel, who died in 2009. Many critics hailed Chapman’s quiet album as her best album, and Chapman also thought at the time like it might be her best. Three years later, however, she’s given us an album that is so full of celebration, funky fun, and straight to the heart and body music that it’s safe to say that “Big Lonesome” simply paved the way for her best yet.
From the moment the needle drops on the first groove of her new album “Blaze of Glory” until its last notes fade, Marshall Chapman takes us on a wild, thrilling, sobering ride through every musical style, driving us around the corners of our loves, lusts, disappointments, and anticipations.
The album kicks off with a raucous tune, “Love in the Wind,” that features Will Kimbrough’s funky Bo Diddley-like guitar licks. Chapman and guest vocalist Todd Snider get down with a boisterous call and response where they beg each other to let-me-have-some-of-that-good-lovin’, recognizing that that such love is just beyond their reach. Even so, “the wait is always worth the pain.”
Dripping with the warm honey of Will Kimbrough’s slide guitar, and Chapman’s aching vocals—”Give me some of that honey”—”I Don’t Want Nobody” delivers some blistering, straight-ahead rock and roll, with some riffs out of The Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” days. The ragged, raw, and to-the-bone power of this song provides a fluid segue into Chapman’s bluesy and languid cover of Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington’s “Nearness of You.” Chapman’s version oozes with longing as she caresses the lyrics: “It isn’t your sweet/conversation/that brings sensation/oh no/it’s just the nearness of you.”
Chapman recognizes that such craving for inching up closer and closer to a lover leaves one not only breathless but “Beyond Words.” In the nearness of a lover, the singer discovers “how foolish to think/all this was behind me/feeling this way/beyond words.” It’s not long, though, before this wordless can’t-get-close-enough-to-you-baby feeling develops into an overwhelming desire to let the “ocean of love inside me” wash over her. In the choogling “Let’s Make Waves,” the singer urges her lover that “love can’t be a sin/when it’s made by me and you/let’s make waves, baby, waves, baby, waves.”
The album shifts from riotous passion and unbridled sensuality in The Delmore Brothers’ “Blues Stay Away from Me,” into a celebration and reflection on the limitations of the body. The gospel-inflected “Waiting for the Music,” kicks off with a languorous sense of yearning: “wetter than the ocean/hotter than the sun/my body’s on fire/and baby you’re the one.” Waiting on a lover to carry you away is much like tarrying on a the right words and the right music to carry you away to a new place: “Now I’m waiting for the music/waiting for the music/to take me away/like the voice of God/it calls out to me/you don’t have to know/you don’t have to do anything/all you have to do is love/now go find yourself a song to sing.”
The reggae-inflected “Call the Lamas,” which appeared on Chapman’s 2006 album Mellowicious!, lifts the album into a different realm, with its catchy “Oms” and reflections on a little Buddha-like child sitting in the grocery cart in the line ahead of the singer. On “Not Afraid to Die,” Chapman responds to the Louvin Brothers’ “Are You Afraid to Die?” with a Willie Nelson-Harlan Howard influenced tune. In many ways, the singer has done “everything I could to die young/and leave behind a beautiful memory,” but she discovers that “fate had other plans for me” and “the only thing that matters in the end/is the love you gave to those you love the best.” On the folksy, reflective title track, Chapman ponders how she’s made it this far, thinking that she’d “always go in a blaze of glory” but “now every morning at the break of dawn/I’ve got to see that sun rise up in a blaze of glory.”
Chapman’s “Blaze of Glory” steadily burns like a passion that can’t be quenched. This is music that you feel with every part of your body; it gets under your skin, like the sensual yearnings for a partner or for just the right words for a tune; soulful and stirring, Chapman’s album touches us so deeply that we want to crawl up as close as we can to the partner whose flesh, heart, and soul we crave to be near since we know that someday we’ll lose that body in a “blaze of glory.”