In her recent interview for Folk and Tumble, Beth Nielsen Chapman described her new album ‘Hearts of Glass’ as “songs about vulnerability and strength”. That’s about as close a summary in five words as it’s possible to get.
This collection spans the full spectrum of emotion – from the upbeat, celebratory opening tune ‘Come To Mine’ (written with Graham Gouldman and Kevin Montgomery), which is simply bursting with that joyful “good to be alive” feeling, to the painful ‘Rage on Rage’, a difficult song about domestic violence, or to the poignancy of ‘Child Again’, a heart-wrenching sojourn into the closed and closeted worlds of dementia and old age (both from her back catalogue but re-worked beautifully for this new album, which was produced in entirety by Sam Ashworth).
In some ways, there is a quaint domesticity throughout – and a hankering back to more simple times, a subtle celebration of childhood. ‘Old Church Hymns and Nursery Rhymes’ is both reflective and retrospective – there is a sense of nostalgia and reminiscing in this album – a nod to our own mortality and need to make the most of what we got, while we got it. This is a song that Beth originally wrote for Waylon Jennings (released on his ‘Eagle’ album) but recorded here for the first time by Beth.
‘Epitaph for Love’ continues that theme, poetically recognising our human vulnerability, the “ordinariness” of the heart-shattering. And yet, despite all that, this yin/yang, light/dark mix bounces back with open-hearted love songs such as ‘Enough For Me’, ‘For All The Love’ and ‘You’re Still My Valentine’.
These songs are all instantly memorable and they leave their mark – they can lift you up, and break your heart. It’s something of a merry-go-round – but it’s clear to see just how and why Beth Nielsen truly, madly, deeply deserves her place in the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame (to which she was inducted last year).
‘Hearts Of Glass’ is a curious mix of the old and the new – featuring various gems revisited from her back catalogue – stripped back and mindfully re-recorded – including ‘Life Holds On’, ‘Dancer To The Drum’, and of course, the powerful and poignant ‘Rage On Rage’ and ‘Child Again’.
While it had been Beth’s intention to make this an album only of her own songs, her version of the song made famous by Willie Nelson in 1990, ‘If My Life Didn’t Have You’ is a classic (featuring Rodney Cowell on backing vocals).
She has a few gigs coming up in Northern Ireland next month – check out:
• Monday 2nd April: Portico, Portaferry
• Tuesday 3rd April: Waterfront, Belfast
Don’t miss out – who knows when she might pass this way again.