Marshall Chapman

Discography - Best-Ofs

Marshall Chapman "Goodbye Little Rock'n'Roller" (Tall Girl, 2003)
This 13-song retrospective disc is a companion to Chapman's autobiographical memoir of the same name... The early tracks, which date back to the 1970s are really impressive for their audacity and balls-out (boobs-out?) rawness, particularly "Rode Hard And Put Out Wet," which was written after a nightlong bender, and "Running Out On The Night," which is one of the more sexually forthright rock songs this side of Marianne Faithfull's "Why'd Ya Do It." The lighter acoustic number "Texas Is Everywhere" derides the mainstream commercialization of the "outlaw" country scene, and other songs such as "Betty's Being Bad," The Perfect Partner" and the title track delve into feminine identity, while the closing tracks get a bit spiritually inclined (reflecting Chapman's clean-and-sober maturity...) All in all, this is an intellectually impressive set which revels a penetrating, restless personality and while her stripped-down roots-rock musical approach may meander a bit, Chapman is definitely worth checking out.

Discography - Albums

Marshall Chapman "Me, I'm Feelin' Free" (Epic, 1977)
Cool record -- an amazing debut. Opening with the Southern soul of "Somewhere South Of Macon" and the gospel-tinged "Know My Needs," this album lays out a raw, singular vision, showing a kindred spirit to folks like Tony Joe White and Bobbie Gentry, a rootsy Southern singer who could articulate a fiercely regional yet totally contemporary musical vision. And "Rode Hard And Put Up Wet" is one hell of a raunchy, riotous rock song! Some cool cover tunes, and some great originals: this album is definitely worth checking out!

Marshall Chapman "Jaded Virgin" (Epic, 1978)
Hmmm. Looks like the studio dudes got ahold of her and sidetracked her for a while. This opens with an unusual, spacy version of Bob Seger's "Turn The Page" and closes with a cover of Waylon Jennings' "You Asked Me To"; in between there's some weird, languid pop, an uneasy intersection of old school roots-rock and a more glossy, disco era pop sound. Underneath it all, Chapman is undeniably a rugged rocker, but her innate ooompf doesn't really come out in the music. Perhaps more of a relic of its time than an actual crank-it-up-to-eleven desert island disc. But she was clearly, as one of these songs says, not like other girls...

Marshall Chapman "Marshall" (Epic, 1979)
Cool! An interesting sound -- somewhat jittery, uptempo stuff, a mix of new wave and Southern boogie rock, perhaps? -- and the attitude is pretty wild. Here's this bold, uncompromised, hard-edged rocker chick with a take-no-prisoners, make-no-excuses swagger, sort of a swampy Patti Smith, laying out a raspy, challenging, modern female '70s sexuality. I mean, ya gotta love a song like "Don't Make Me Pregnant," as well as her twangier, less-disco remake of "Why Can't I Be Like Other Girls?" This gal was tough! Another album well worth looking into...

Marshall Chapman "Take It On Home" (Rounder, 1982)
I want to like it, but I can't say I'm wild about this one -- the music's a little too languid, and Chapman sounds kinda tired. But maybe it's one of those albums where you have to dig a little deeper, and let it sink in over time. She explores the world of boozers with "Booze In Your Blood," and revisits the Waylon Jennings catalog with an urban blues take on "Pick Up The Tempo." But mostly this one ain't really ringing my bells... The highlight, I'd say, is the album's closer, "Guitar Song," in which she sings the praise of her most constant companion, her trusty old axe.

Marshall Chapman "Dirty Linen" (Tall Girl, 1987)
Although the production's a little slick, this has some nice uptempo retrobilly stuff, like "Great Big Crush" and "Bad Debt", although the slower, greasier songs are kind of hard to hang with. Includes her version of "Betty's Bein' Bad," a Chapman original that was a Top 5 hit for the country band, Sawyer Brown... It's not really working for me anymore, but maybe I'm not quite the target audience.

Marshall Chapman "Inside Job" (Tall Girl, 1991)

Marshall Chapman "It's About Time" (Margaritaville, 1995)

Marshall Chapman "Love Slave" (Island/Tall Girl, 1996)
I have to confess that Marshall Chapman is one of those artists I always glossed over without ever really checking out... For some reason I had her mixed up in my mind with, I dunno, some male New Waver or another, and later, when I realized she was a gal, had some image of her as a vinyl-clad Cindy Bullens type. Then I read an article in the Oxford Monthly that described her as a sort of proto-Lucinda Williams and thought, hmmm... Maybe I should look into this... This is a later album of hers, but it has some really intriguing stuff on it, such as the semi-autobiographical Southern odyssey, "Leaving Loachapoka," the steamy "Love Slave," and the somewhat blunt, but passionately felt gun control ballad, "Guns R Us." The album lapses into what, for lack of a better term, I guess fits under the "adult rock" category, with sort of a ambling intellect that places her a bit in Sam Phillips's general vicinity, although the music is much more stripped down. An interesting roots music foremother, worth checking into...

Marshall Chapman "Mellowicious" (Tall Girl, 2006)
(Produced by Marshall Chapman & Michael Lawler)

This album -- recorded after a ten-year recording haitus -- is distinctly a work of middle age: Chapman imparts wisdom about taking your time to get things right, about being nuanced in your response to life's little hassles, and about being, well... mellow. She also doesn't worry about sounding like a total dork, both musically and occasionally lyrically... She's a grownup now and she doesn't have to sound sassy or clever, or balls-out, rock'n'roll tough if she doesn't want to. That means some of these songs might not grab rock fans the way they're used to, and the right audience might be a little different or a little smaller than the fans of her old stuff... But that's part of the beauty of truly independent artists -- they get to grow up and change if they want to, and either you dig it or you don't. Besides, where are you going to hear country and new wave mixed together like this? She a fun, nutty old lady, subtly shifting into what I guess you could consider "folkie" territory, with kooky songs and odd observations about life's funny little moments.

Marshall Chapman "Live! The Bitter End" (Tall Girl, 2006)

Marshall Chapman "Big Lonesome" (Tall Girl, 2010)
(Produced by Marshall Chapman)

When it comes to wry, weather-beaten, world weary, gnarly, hardcore roots-rocker chicks, Marshall Chapman puts 'em all to shame. She makes Lucinda Williams seem like some baby-faced fourth-grader selling Girl Scout cookies outside her grandma's church; makes Mary Gauthier look like one of the Spice Girls; makes Alanis Morrisette sound like Annette Funicello. Marshall Chapman is the real deal, one of the gnarliest gals in Americana today, and she's been that way since the Spinal Tap 'Seventies... On this raw-boned set of live and studio recordings, Chapman sounds gnarlier than ever, tapping into a deep reservoir of hard-worn life-lessons and a wide range of musical styles. There's more overt twang than on other recent records, and a healthy dose of blues, and -- most important of all -- a wealth of well-crafted, soulful songs. She's raspy, but not harsh, and still finds enough good cheer to write a song like "Sick Of Myself," which starts out all grumpy, but ends up good-natured: she wishes she had a different life, and the person she wishes to become is that of her (real-life) guitar player, the late Tim Krekel, just 'cuz he sounded cool when he cranked it up and played his hot licks. (The album ends with a brief clip of Chapman performing the song life with Krekel, and him chiming in with some tasty leads...) Now in her fourth decade making hard-rockin' records, Marshall Chapman is an undiminished, primal force, and Americana fans would do well to pick up this disc -- it's rootsy and real, and has plenty of gristle for you to chew on. Recommended!

Marshall Chapman "Blaze Of Glory" (Tall Girl, 2013)
(Produced by Michael Utley & Marshall Chapman)

Though there are some rootsy blues-twang tunes on here, there's a contemplative edge that makes this a compelling record -- for example, the pairing of her version of Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness Of You" with the shimmering, fragile "Beyond Words," a song that sounds like a fading sunset... Chapman has enough of a badass past that she can still sound rough and rugged when she wants to, but her softer, more mature stuff seems more resonant: with a wealth of life experiences, she's earned the right to go either way, and on this album she does. Certainly one of the stronger albums in her long and dramatic career.

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