"Follow Me" Liner Notes

 

There is some glorious singing andplaying on this record.  The Chapmans have slowly been demonstrating their tight harmonies and inventive instrumentals out on the bluegrass circuit the last few years.  You expect a family group to have tight harmonies, but this group goes beyond any generic feelings about sibling closeness.

  In some ways, this project is a real showcase for the family's oldest son, John Chapman.  John's guitar playing exhibits influences from modern bluegrass legends like Tony Rice. His leads are clean, smart and full of precision, always enhancing the songs he plays on.  His rhythm is impeccable and punch also, bringing together the best in recent developments in bluegrass guitar.  Then there's his singing.  It's versatile, always right on pitch, full of soul and emotion when necessary.  I think it's safe to say that John has evolven into a major player in bluegrass.  Fans acknowledged this in 2000 by awarding him Guitar Player of the Year at SPBGMA.  He could just as easily have been the Male Vocalist of the Year!

  The great thing is that his father and siblings are more than just a support group.  They are talented musicians and singers on their own.  Father Bill must be an inspiration to this group (as is Mom Patti, I'm sure).  He is a hard-driving banjo player in the Crowe mold, and I love the way his pulse melds with John's rhythm.  Add youngest son Jason's punchy bass and Jeremy's solid chop, and you have a formidable rhythm section, which is vital to any good bluegrass group.  Jason, in particular, has developed into a top-notch bass player in a ver short period of time.  Jeremy is a polished modern mandolin player, but he really shined in his one turn at lead vocal on this record, and excellent tune he and James Woolsey wrote, "Trains Make Me Want To Say Goodbye."   His power on this track makes you think that John and Jeremy could form one of the more potent one-two lead vocal punches in bluegrass.  The songs are well-chosen to suit the Chapmans' strengths and exhibit a variety of influences.  Barry Scott's "Grandpa's Walking Cane" could just be their vehicle for ascending the bluegrass charts.  "Follow Me To Tennessee," by the accomplished Missouri writer Lowell Appling, gets a straight-ahead bluegrass treatment.  I've always loved the tender inspirational song "Consider The Lilies," and the Chapmans do a fine version here.  Even a chestnut like Bill Monroe's "I'm Going Back To Old Kentucky" takes on new life with these guys.  They resurrect tunes that deserve to stay in the bluegrass canon like "The Old Man In The Shanty," which was first recorded by The Lonesome River Band back in the days before Ronnie Bowman and Sammy Shelor.  All the varieties of country music have clearly influenced this group as well.  Jay Penny's "Don't Let Me Cross Over (Love's Cheating Line)" was Carl and Pearl Butler's biggest hit, and the Chapmans show it can make a fine bluegrass ballad as well.  A swinging treatment of the George Morgan classic "Candy Kisses" lets the band really show its chops with great mandolin and bass lines, and even a "cool" jazz style guitar solo.  "No Reason To Stay" by East Tennessee's Susan Carroll and Timothy Dale Malone is a perfect vehicle for John Chapmans's superb delivery of a country-flavored song.  "Losing Again" was penned by Jon Weisberger, who's perhaps better known as the bassist for the Wildwood Valley Boys and a prolific bluegrass prose writer.  With two good songs on this record, Jon will have to add "songwriter" to his list of talents.  He also penned "Heart's Bouquet," which demonstrates that the Chapmans can deliver contemporary ballads without banjo, a form at which bluegrass bands have become adept in recent years.  The Chapmans previously recorded Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," but decided to re-do this crowd favorite here with a few twists.  I can's imagine anyone pulling this kind of song off any better than the Chapman Family.

  IIIrd Tyme Out's Ray Deaton produced the Chapman's first Pinecastle release, "Notes From Home" to great effect.  Here, he perfects the sound even more, thanks in part to the wonderful engineering job by Greg Luck.  Greg, who's played with many first-rate bluegrass acts, including J.D. Crowe and the New South, has the ears to make a good recording, and this album is proof.  Deaton adds his bass vocal to "You Send Me" and pulls band-mate Russell Moore out for a guest vocal spot on "Losing Again."  Ray has also cajoled great performances from the Chapmans and their guests, the incredible Stuart Duncan of fiddle, Randy Kohrs on resophonic guitar and John Catchings on cello.   The deep, resonant tones of the cello are perfect for some bluegrass ballads, and I applaud the Chapmans for using it to great effect on this record.  For those of you worried that "it ain't bluegrass," remember, cellos were often used in early string bands, so it's not as foreign as you might think.  This is a polished recording, and it sereves to show that the Chapmans have arrived.  The deserve to be mentioned from now on with all the "first teir" bands of bluegrass, if they aren't already.

  ~Tim Stafford

Kingsport, Tennessee

February, 2001

 

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