Essential New Music: Michael Chapman’s “True North”

True North is Michael Chapman’s second album for Paradise Of Bachelors, and once again Steve Gunn sits in the producer’s chair. But this is very different from 2017’s 50, which paired the veteran English singer/guitarist with a much younger band of Americans who probably remember his old records better than he does. Now that the 78-year-old Chapman has scratched the urge to make an American record off of his bucket list, he’s gotten down to the more serious matter of taking stock of a long life.

Chapman’s dogged guitar picking evokes the road, and the curving pedal steel and cello melodies that wrap around his picking suggest a warm comfort that he can’t quite grasp. Closer at hand is his old friend Bridget St. John, whose voice has a similarly lived-in sound. Their harmonies add just enough sugar to make Chapman’s plainly stated, bitterly measured observations go down one after another. 

—Bill Meyer