DAISY CHAPMAN: NetRhythms Review

A wonderful review of Daisy Chapman‘s album Shameless Winter from David Kidman in NetRhythms:

“I can’t tell you much about Daisy beyond the fact that she’s based in Bristol. She writes captivating songs, and accompanies herself extremely capably on the piano. She has an intimate and engaging delivery that makes the most of the highly assured qualities of her singing voice. To find that combination in a singer-songwriter these days is a rare thing; and so, to be honest, I think she’s a really special talent. But, considering the self-evident immediacy and confident accessibility of her music, I was surprised that it took a few plays before her album fully “connected” with me.

The opening (title) track is a wintry reflection on writer’s block following a Scandinavian tour, that builds its stream-of-consciousness inexorably into reminiscences of school days and old friends. Here she appears to set out her musical stall with Elton John-style chord changes and Jeff Buckley-ish passion-ridden chansonnier vocals, onto which is layered a lush string-upholstered build and rhythm section. Extremely persuasive though this opener is, there are plenty of even more compelling musical adventures to come: adventures of striking originality and maturity.

I’d stress, though, that Chapman’s no imitator, but is clearly following in the traditions of iconic singer-songwriters like Carole King, and her classically-inclined pianistic prowess is at times quite reminiscent of Tori Amos, although Daisy’s sense of showmanship is more acutely tailored to the service of the songs I feel, and as a result her work is distinctly more organic and satisfying.

The songs on this disc proudly display her true gift for observation, and she proves a very inspired storyteller, as can be heard on the Titanic-referenced Mrs Hart’s Premonition, the fantasy fable The Gentleman In 13B, the cheekily autobiographical Better Me, and perhaps best of all, the intensely arresting The Life Of Mary May, which, sung virtually a cappella, forms a kind of prequel to Marry Mary, a track from her earlier album, The Green Eyed. The more conversational demeanour and easy melodic contours of The Girl In Hannover strike a very Sandy Denny chord with me and this bare-bones voice-and-piano number closes the album in a particularly memorable vein. Another earlier standout is the strangely tender winter-companion-piece Jealous Angels, which has poignant soulful overtones that furnish hope and promise in a bleak landscape. And I also responded to the mystical meditation A Sinner Song, with its delicious use of “bell-chords” in the vocal part.

Throughout the album, and providing a perfect foil for Chapman’s stylish creations, Lizz Lipscombe’s excellent string arrangements are a constant delight, not least since they make a virtue of their chamber-ensemble economy (only piano-trio, with occasional double bass, but always sounding richly textured). In that context, she even acknowledges a Schindler’s List influence to the disc’s purely instrumental item, The Hangman’s Waltz, which fits well within the song sequence. The only slightly uncomfortable moment on the disc comes with a cover of Billy (Smashing Pumpkins) Corgan’s enigmatic Disarm – she clearly has an affinity with the song, but it doesn’t seem to quite fit here. Even so, it doesn’t spoil the consistency of the CD, which is by any standards a striking achievement.”
– David Kidman, NetRhythms, January 2013

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