The Chapmans - Follow Me
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Follow Me (Pinecastle, 2001)

The Chapmans

Reviewed by Brad San Martin

The Chapmans are a top-flight modern bluegrass ensemble, consisting of three siblings and their banjo-pickin' papa. The common genetics make for natural, smooth harmony and instrumental empathy.This, their second album, consolidates and magnifies the winning traits amply displayed on their previous Pinecastle disc "Notes From Home." While there are innumerable performers attempting to make a mark in this style - essentially straight-up bluegrass with tinges of contemporary country (especially in the ballads) - the Chapmans clearly rise to the top of the heap for three simple reasons.

The first is Ray Deaton's sterling production. Clear, crisp, and uncluttered, Deaton brings the best qualities of his own band (the mega-popular IIIrd Tyme Out) while keeping the Chapmans from sounding like IVth Tyme Out. Bassist Jason comes shining through the crystalline mix - the band's heartbeat and harmonic foundation. Coupled with mandolinist Jeremy's simpatico rhythm playing, it would be hard to imagine a better foundation. The second major ingredient is John Chapman - the group's primary vocalist and lead guitarist. A devastating singer with a strong Russell Moore influence, his pliant tenor sours on the ballads and, on more uptempo numbers, wails with a near-perfect balance of restraint and urgency...and he's a fine, lickity-split Tony Rice influenced lead guitarist, too!

And the third component? Well, it's the sound of everything above happening at once. For like all the best bands, The Chapmans are greater than the sum of their individual parts. In The Chapmans' case, it helps that each individual part is first rate.

CDs by The Chapmans

Simple Man, 2005

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