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Richard Thompson, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Davy Graham, Martin Carthy, Ralph McTell and John Martyn are all rightly celebrated as pioneers of late 60s British acid folk, with distinctive six-string and vocal styles and ways of bending the United Kingdom’s folk tradition to their wills. But they weren’t the only ones with XY chromosomes wielding acoustic guitars and enlivening folk clubs. Steve Tilston, Dave Evans,Wizz Jones and Michael Chapman put their own stamps on the new tradition, to less acclaim but just as much artistic success. At 78, Chapman, in fact, has proven himself as influential as his better-known contemporaries, enjoying a recent reissue campaign and leaving a mark on recent folk rockers like Steve Gunn, Cian Nugent and Ryley Walker. Gunn also serves as producer of Chapman’s latest album True North. His voice craggier and his playing more assured than ever, Chapman wastes little time with fripperies. Even though he’s as capable of dazzling runs and tricky licks as anyone, he never shows off, preferring to use his still-nimble fingerings for support rather than flash. Everything he does is to draw attention to the songs, letting his earthy tales of reflection, relish and regret speak for themselves. As with 2017’s reintroduction 50, Gunn brings in tasteful accompaniment, including pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole, cellist Sarah Smout, himself and Chapman’s old Britfolk compadre Bridget St. John. But he keeps the spotlight on his client, and that’s who rightfully carries the tracks. “It’s Too Late,” “Hell to Pay,” “Full Body, Empty Heart,” “Youth is Wasted on the Young” and instrumentals “Caddo Lake” and “Eleuthera” showcase a veteran artist who’s nowhere near past his prime. Aficionados of British folk no doubt already love Michael Chapman; casual fans and the curious will find True North an excellent place to begin.
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