Released in time for her appearance at Celtic Connections, Uncovered is pretty much the obverse of the usual covers record. With a healthy reputation for penning hits for others in addition to being a fine performer in her own right Beth Nielsen Chapman has delved into her bank balance (sorry, her notebooks) to deliver a selection of songs she has written but not recorded before, the majority of which were hits for the lucky recipients. To cap this she’s rounded up a host of luminaries to guest on most of the songs she’s chosen. The roster includes Duane Eddy, Vince Gill, Kim Carnes, Gretchen Peters, Suzi Boguss, Darrell Scott and our very own Phil Cunningham.
Given that many of these songs were written (perhaps) with an eye on the market I have to confess that several of them are not what would normally rock Blabber’n’Smoke but Chapman usually wins out even on her version of This Kiss, a hit for Faith Hill although Pray did test our endurance somewhat (despite it being one of the songs recorded in Scotland). However there are some cracking moments here with Sweet Love Shine (a co-write with Waylon Jennings and which features Jennings’ widow Jessie Colter and twang master Duane Eddy) featuring Chapman in sultry mode with Eddy adding his own eddies of subdued twang in the background. Strong Enough To Bend (written for Tanya Tucker) is a fine bluegrass romp while Meet Me Halfway wears its Bonnie Raitt origins proudly on its sleeve as Chapman, Bekka Bramlett and George Marinelli get down and dirty with guitar and organ mining a Southern groove.
Chapman excels herself on the tremendous rush that is One In a Million with guitars scrubbing away and a chorus that rings to the heavens before the countrified lament of Five Minutes offers an opportunity to hear what a fine singer she is as sleek pedal steel skirls around what is an almost perfect example of a strong female ultimatum to her man who done wrong. It might be bias but for us the standout song is the other one recorded in Scotland. Nothing I Can Do About It Now was written for Willie Nelson but Chapman, Phil Cunningham, Duncan Chisholm, John McCusker, James Mackintosh, Euan Burton, and Matheu Watson offer up a rollickingly good honky tonk cut with some excellent clamorous pedal steel and of course Cunningham’s accordion which adds a peculiar Scottish lilt to the Texicali feel.
Chapman appears at the opening Celtic Connections show at the Royal Concert Hall today before her own show on Saturday 18th January at the City Halls.