After a seven-year hiatus, Marshall Chapman is back with "Songs I Can't Live Without," her 14th release and eighth on her own label. The 71-year-old singer-songwriter-author-actress had intended to retire from music five years ago and stepped into a film role in 2015's "Mississippi's Grind" where she played a blues-singing mother of gambler-drifter Ryan Reynolds. Before the filming began, the producers asked her to record the Dan Penn/Donnie Fritts classic "Rainbow Road" with emerging producer Neilsen Hubbard, who has produced so many great albums in recent years, including this one. He and Chapman hit it off, agreeing to making a record at some point. Little did they know, it would be five years later.
This is a 'bucket list' project, recording favorite songs. Of course, she breathes new life into these songs with her intimate, haunting, expressive lived-in voice which Hubbard and bandmates Will Kimbrough and Dan Mitchell frame beautifully.
Songs range from Leonard Cohen's "Tower of Song" to Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" to J.J. Cale's "After Midnight" to Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone." Hubbard is adept at framing singers with spare backdrops and just the right ambience as he does here. That combination of his production values and Chapman's emotive voice works wonders. You'll hear these songs differently than you ever have. The only odd choice, at first, seemed to be the closing hymn, "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands," where she sings as well as sermonizes. Yet, leave it to Rodney Crowell for putting it in the context of what we all feel today, "And there's the added value of her sermon at the end...quite possibly halting the spread of COVID-19." Well, she alone unfortunately cannot do that, but her effort provides comfort in these trying times.
The CD is available for purchase at Marshall Chapman's website.