At 78, Michael Chapman goes from strength to strength, recording here with a new touring band that includes BJ Cole on pedal steel and the wonderful Bridget St John on backing vocals. They tour this spring. Hard to say yet whether this surpasses 2017's superb 50, which marked the fiftieth year of his career, but the album flows beautifully and has one advantage over its predecessor in that it fits onto one LP (you also get a download code) whereas the vinyl of 50 skipped three tracks. If you know his music, you'll know what to expect: gruff, gritty vocals, mesmerising guitar & a very Yorkshire view of the world: True North has a particularly rich sound, thanks to producer Steve Gunn. Great stuff.
I only came across Michael Chapman when I acquired his previous album 50 which had garnered many favourable reviews as his Americana album. It had a full electric band, was very good, and it was one of my albums of the year. This album is a quieter more introspective and reflective album, recorded in rural Wales ,again superbly produced by Steve Gunn who also plays guitar. There are a small cast of stellar supporting musicians playing on the album; BJ Cole is the pedal steel guitar player who is the choice exponent on his instrument and features heavily through the album ; Bridget St John subtly adds supporting vocal harmonies to great effect; while Sarah Smout adds some classy touches of cello here and there. Michael Chapman will not win any prizes for the quality of his gruff downbeat singing voice, but his songwriting, guitar playing, and sentiments shine throughout loud ,clear and true with honesty and integrity. Michael has provided a couple of instrumentals,a selection of great new songs, and re-tread a few of his older songs to great effect. It is a warm, woozy relaxed album, a bit on the melancholy side of things. he is looking back after some half century of performing, he has nothing to prove, but he has produced another classic album that will be rated highly in his long career as one of his best. I hope to catch him live locally for the first time in a few weeks with this great supporting cast of fellow musicians. Having listened to this a few times now, it has grown better with every play, there is a lot to enjoy and cherish here. Overall it is highly recommended, making an early claim as one of my top ten albums of 2019.
I’ve been following MC for fifty years and his recent releases are very much up there with the best of those years. The last, 50, celebrated fifty years of recording with many nods to the back catalogue in technique, delivery and content - you could feel those fifty years of life experience and savour the laced acute observations, incisive wit and deadpan humour. It was produced with a young team of hotshots who complemented the work perfected. True North doesn’t mine any new direction found in 50 but builds on it, with more friends, as it draws on the power of place that has shaped the man and his music. As good as anything and will send you back to the earliest albums searching out familiar riffs and progressions (and tunings!), even snatches of lyric, that have glimmered again, fleetingly.
When I saw Michael at Union Chapel, I got the impression that, after 50 years in the business, he would be hanging up his guitar- thankfully I was wrong. At the grand age of 78, he can still play some fabulous music, and this album is no exception. If you like Rainmaker and Fully Qualified Survivor, you'll love this.
Got into Michael chapman in the early 80s with qualified survivor from the 70s with the great mick Ronson on guitar. This is a great album if you like this get 50 as well he is absolute treasure nobody like him.
This is a cracking album from Michael Chapman. I’ve been a fan since Rainmaker (50 years now); I’ve not always liked everything he has done but True North is one of his best, I think.
I reckon that Chapman was probably born sounding downbeat, world-weary and slightly indistinct, and he certainly hasn’t changed that. His voice is older now, but still has the evocative depth and delivery it always did. His guitar work is wonderful, of course, with a full, rich sound here and he understands the value of simplicity. There are times when, for me at least, he has taken this too far (Pachyderm springs to mind), but the balance here is perfect between melody and his guitar and other backing. So, for example we get the lovely instrumental Caddo Lake followed by the excellent Hell To Pay, a fine song with really classy lyrics.
This really is a very good album with no weaknesses and some very, very good stuff. Warmly recommended.
I first saw Michael Chapman in a folk club in Norfolk back in 1967 when he was still waiting for a deal for his first album "Rainmaker". I have followed Mike off and on all through his career with some of his albums being a bit hit and miss. "True North" is one of his best in recent times with that world weary voice back in great form. He is helped out on vocals on a few of the tracks by Bridget St John which works very well. Some great sympathetic pedal playing by BJ Cole make this a very good set.
Wonderful record up there as at least an equal with other older statement who produced records in older age such as Time Out of Mind and Leonard Cohen’s late albums. Reflective , often with a melancholy theme, beautiful played especially enhanced by Bridget St John and the wonderful cello. He certainly is a qualified survivor! Highly recommended.