Picks and Pans Review: Beth Nielsen Chapman
updated 12/17/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/17/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST
A benevolent sort of carpetbagger, Chapman is a songwriter who grew up in New England, California and Germany (in an Air Force family) before she settled in Nashville. Most of her reputation stems from her tunes that have been recorded by country singers like Tanya Tucker ("Strong Enough to Bend"), Lorrie Morgan ("Five Minutes") and Willie Nelson ("Nothin' I Can Do About It Now"). But her singing style, as this quietly appealing solo LP shows, is more redolent of such Yankees as James Taylor (one of Chapman's professed models) and, especially, Carly Simon.
Chapman's vaguely tremulous, true-toned and seductive voice, as well as the stubbornly optimistic mood of most of the songs she writes, could easily have made her a star pupil at the Simon School of Roman-tie Resiliency. Her themes—divorce; a woman confronting a childhood best friend who is now ill; senility—are not the stuff of common pop tunes: "Children of her children/ Bringing babies of their own/ Sometimes she remembers/ Then her mama calls her home." Chapman, who is in her early 30s, has been around a bit, though, and may have had a chat about matters of the mind with her therapist husband. Her interest in determined resolve obviously has some thought behind it: "I was swinging on the swings when I was a little girl/ Trying to get a handle on the big, wide world/ When I noticed all the grass in the cracks in the concrete/ I said, "Where there's a will, there's a way around anything.' " While this kind of thing isn't likely to land Chapman a spot on the Grand Ole Opry, it generates a thoughtful 60 minutes. And if it gets her thrown out of the country composing sorority, then Nashville's loss, etc.... (Reprise)