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Fantastic intergenerational pairing of two of the north of England's foremost outsider song stylists...
A self-styled old white blues guy from Yorkshire and one of the most under-rated heroes of our time. Chapman's uniquely English melancholic perspective and emotive guitar style first won him the admiration of John Peel and then more recently kindred spirits Jack Rose and No Neck Blues Band. 2011 will see Tompkins Square release 'Word Fail Me Vol 1+2' and a re-issue of his classic 'Fully Qualified Survivor'
The guitar and voice of Michael Chapman first became known on the Cornish Folk Circuit in 1967. Playing a blend of atmospheric and autobiographical material he established a reputation for intensity and innovation. Signed to EMI's Harvest label he recorded a quartet of classic albums. LPs like 'Rainmaker' and 'Wrecked Again' defined the melancholic observer role Michael was to make his own, mixing intricate guitar instrumentals with a full band sound. The influential album 'Fully Qualified Survivor', featuring the guitar of Mick Ronson and Rick (Steeleye Span) Kemp's bass, was John Peel's favourite album of 1970. 'Survivor' featured the Chapman 'hit', "Postcards of Scarborough", a characteristically tenderly sour song recounting the feelings of nostalgia and regret.
A lively and accomplished improviser, Michael gained a reputation for re-working material, both before an audience and on record. Songs were seen as standards, themes to be explored, extended and varied on stage and in the studio. The Don Nix produced 'Savage Amusement' featured versions of the Chapman songs "Shuffleboat River Farewell" and "It Didn't Work Out". Different musicians and a different sound breathed new life into earlier material, showing Michael to be a jazz musician in spirit if not in sound.
Richard Dawson has been a much-loved musical spectacle in his native Newcastle for many years now, a skewed troubadour who sings and plays guitar with a rare intensity and a very singular style. Beguiled northern audiences have long awaited the arrival of recordings that capture Dawson’s genius, and it has finally arrived with his album The Magic Bridge, a 10-song collection out now on cd and double vinyl via Box Records.
Dawson’s music is a collision of opposites, his hoarsely cracking voice suddenly rising to a magical soar that’s been compared to Tim Buckley, John Martyn and Richard Youngs, while his battered acoustic guitar veers from stumble to sublime in a way that can recall Sir Richard Bishop or Captain Beefheart. Add this to his snaring way with words and Dawson’s got you pinned – stories like the one relayed in Black Dog In the Sky typify his by turns heartbreaking and hilarious self-deprecation and skill in painting a story with both words and guitar.
The listener is drawn in carefully but irresistibly from the instrumental opener Juniper Berries Float Down The Stream, which creeps in falteringly but grows and envelops before you realise it’s happened and your gripped. By track 2 and the arrival of his skyward voice (not to mention its beautifully tender conclusion) and Dawson has you under his spell.
“What makes The Magic Bridge such a remarkable album is that every comparison one might make, however illustrious the precursor, feels both entirely justified by Dawson’s music, yet entirely inadequate as an explanation of it. This elusive freshness is why the album demands to be properly heard, compelling the listener to keep coming back to it.” - The Wire