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Music Review: Marshall Chapman – Big Lonesome

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Marshall Chapman is one of those artists who has released a number of critically acclaimed albums but has not had the break-out commercial success they and she deserved. Now over thirty years into her career; the singer, songwriter, and author will release a new studio album October 26th.

The project started as a duet album with long time friend Tim Krekel. Things don’t work out as planned sometimes and bad things happen to good people and so early into the planning of the album Tim Krekel died of cancer.

She carried on alone as the songwriting and recording process was a comforting and ultimately cathartic experience. The resulting Big Lonesome is a personal memorial for a lost friend.

She surrounds herself with a stellar group of musicians to back her vocals and rhythm guitar. Lead guitarist Will Kimbrough, drummer Casey Wood, bassist Jim Mayer, keyboardist Michael Utley, and steel guitarist and sax player Jim Hoke are all veterans and excellent sidemen who helped to make her musical visions come alive. Utley who produced albums for Jimmy Buffett and Roy Orbison shares that chore with Chapman.

Chapman wrote six of the eleven tracks herself and includes three more she composed with Tim Krekel before his death.

The other two tracks were cover songs which reflected the overall themes of loss and remembrance well. One of the gems of the album was her blusy cover of the old Cindy Walker country song “Going Away Party” which was originally recorded by Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys. She nails the loss and acceptance just right. She also covers the Hank Williams classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with a throaty vocal.

The album presents mostly modern country music with some forays into a vocal blues and jazz sound. “Down In Mexico,” “I Can’t Stop Thinking about You,” “Riding With Willie,” and Sick Of Myself” are all exceptional.

Tim Krekel appears on two tracks including the title song. It is the final live track recorded May 30, 2009 that brings the album to a fitting conclusion as it is the last time the two performed together.

Big Lonesome is a fine addition to the Marshall Chapman catalogue and the memory of a lost friend.

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