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The Chapmans

Grown Up (A Revisionist History)

(Compass; US: 9 Feb 2010; UK: 19 Apr 2010)

Faster, Louder, Better

20-year bluegrass stalwarts the Chapmans return with a retrospective, but rather than cobble together a “greatest hits” collection, the songs have been re-recorded, lending a freshness and immediacy to what could have been a stodgy exercise. Bluegrass is, perhaps, the most staid genre of music in the world, but the Chapmans breathe new life into it here, from the jaunty opening strains of “Why Did You Lie” and “She’s Never Coming Back” to the slower-paced “Jenny Dear” and “Small Exception of Me”. John Chapman’s vocals are classically nasal, with that high lonesome sound ringing out over the band’s impeccable instrumental work; expect crystalline banjo and mandolin lines, fluid guitar work, soulful fiddle and rolling bass. Instrumental “El Cumbanchero” manages to marry a bit of mariachi flavor—hey, who said bluegrass was staid?—with breakneck picking. At the other extreme, a cappella “Bring It on Home to Me” does away with instrumentation entirely and showcases the group’s vocal chops. This record is a treat for both hardcore genre fans, and those who enjoy the music now and then but don’t make a point of keeping up with the scene. All together now: “I’m rollin’ away on a big sternwheeler / Down the Mississippi to the sea…”

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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The Chapmans - She's Never Coming Back [Live]
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