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Album Review Memories, regrets and a keen sense of time

IAN SINCLAIR reviews latest from Michael Chapman, Kaia Kater, and William Tyler

Michael Chapman
True North
(Paradise of Bachelors)
★★★★

VETERAN British guitarist and songwriter Michael Chapman has released a brooding album full of memories, regrets and a keen sense of the passing of time.

Made up of four original compositions and cuts from the 77-year-old’s voluminous back catalogue, True North seems to exist in the same ethereal, late-night musical and cultural hinterland as Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind.

On opener It’s Too Late, Chapman’s gravitas-laden vocals are reminiscent of another rock legend — Johnny Cash circa his Rick Rubin-assisted reinvention. “I never knew I wanted you until it was too late,” he laments.

He is similarly rueful on the wearied Youth Is Wasted on the Young: “There are no many things that we could have done/And so many songs that we left unsung.”

A mature set of deeply affecting ruminations on mortality and life.

Kaia Kater
Grenades
(Smithsonian Folkways Recordings)
★★★★

THE fourth album from Grenadian-Canadian singer-songwriter Kaia Kater is a shift away from the Appalachian-influenced folk music she has made her name with.

Relying on acoustic guitar rather than her trademark banjo, Grenades is rooted in Kater’s father’s story of fleeing Grenada in 1986 after the US invasion three years earlier, crafting an enthralling record of family, memory, war and trauma.

Several brief narrative interludes from him are spread across the set, including one remembering “the ferocity of the American military.”

Musically, Kater has fashioned a number of rich ballads backed by warm instrumentation such as Canyonlands, an elusive and epic song reminiscent of fellow Canuck The Weather Station.

Best of all is the slow-burn soul of the title track, with its swirling organ and enticing lyrics like “The planes, they duck and punch/Melt the candy clouds and parchment lungs.”

William Tyler
Goes West
(Merge Records)
★★★

PREVIOUSLY a member of Americana acts Lambchop and Silver Jews, Goes West is the fourth solo album from Nashville-born guitar maestro William Tyler.

Produced by Tucker Martine (Laura Veirs, The Decemberists) and bassist and multi-instrumentalist Bradley Cook, Tyler has shifted gears, playing exclusively acoustic guitar. The result is a warm, pensive set of instrumental music to get lost in, the perfect accompaniment to a long road trip or train journey.

Questing opener Alpine Star involves lots of changes in tempo and sound, while Not In Our Stars is a slower, regretful number. The legendary Bill Frissell guests on closing track Our Lady In The Desert although, like all the musicians accompanying Tyler, his contribution doesn’t dominate but is a respectful addition to the magical soundscape created.

An impressive, very listenable companion piece to Tyler’s stunning 2016 album Modern Country.

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