We are blessed this evening to be in the presence of one of the great female songwriters. The show is a real joy and filled with many happy moments, plenty of laughter, poignant storytelling and above all, wonderful music.
Beth Nielsen Chapman is a true survivor, both in life and in the music business. Having faced the death of her first husband in 1994 as a young mother, she herself has tackled breast cancer and a brain tumour in more recent years. Not that she looks for any form of sympathy as she displays a gregarious confidence and comes out swinging on all fronts.
We are treated to a number of songs from her new release Uncovered which claims back songs she had written for other artists, but never recorded herself. Some of these artists are spoken of, without any hint of name dropping, but simply relaying the facts of the background stories. We get to meet Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Duane Eddy, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Bete Midler, Elton John, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, Don Williams, Crystal Gayle and many more...
Honourable mention is also given to co-writers on some songs and Annie Roboff, Rodney Crowell, Darrell Scott and Mary Chapin Carpenter are included in the procession of top drawer talent that has worked with this special artist.
Beth has a beautiful voice that is full of personality and warmth and her playing is both confident and impressive on guitar and keyboards. Her Irish roots also betray her natural talent as a raconteur and she communicates with her audience in a relaxed and easy style. Her musings and stories, both funny and poignant, are shared with a sense of conspiratorial glee in this intimate venue.
We hear many fine songs from the new release tonight, including Simple Things, This Kiss, Meet Me Halfway, Almost Home and Maybe That’s All It Takes.1990 saw the release of her first recording and tonight she turns back time and plays Years from it, to close the first half of the show in a beautifully controlled and powerful, reflective delivery. The second part of the show includes All I Have, from that same original release and a song that many have used in their wedding music over the years. However, it is the encore, Sand and Water that continues to define her as a talent of rare insight into the human condition and the reflective acceptance of bereavement, central to this song, has never been more beautifully stated.
Throughout the evening, Belfast musician Ruth Trimble supports Beth on keyboards, bass guitar and percussion, displaying her fine talent as a new Irish artist of real note. Her opening set was very well received by an audience that listened intently and clapped and cheered with appreciation as she played her beautiful songs with a quiet intensity and a maturity that was impressive.
The Venue in Rathoath is a very pleasant experience and comes highly recommended for future shows. The sound in the room is perfect for acoustic sessions and the presence of a singer-songwriter like Beth Nielsen Chapman can only help grow the reputation of this hidden gem into the future. Beth returns to Ireland later in the year for a more extensive tour and I strongly urge you to catch her show.
Review and photography by Paul McGee