East Side Slim
Big Jeff Chapman – Big Jeff's Blues
Vol. 2 – artist self-released, 2010
This CD is Jeff Chapman's second release, and interestingly enough he followed through his earlier precedent and referred to it as Vol. 2, following up 2009's Big Jeff's Blues – Vol. 1. Sneak a peak at the review for Vol. 1 as regards background on Jeff and his music - the review can be found right here.
Jeff wrote all the songs on Vol. 2, in addition to singing lead and providing rhythm guitar throughout. The band members on most tracks are Sean Harris on guitar, Bill Baumann on bass, Ian Baird on drums, and Harry Lounsberry on organ/piano.
Additionally, Jeff's brother, Jerry Chapman, plays lead guitar or lap steel on several tracks. The musicians all play with great taste and skill, allowing this CD to sound like a true band effort. As on Vol. 1, there is a southern rock vibe to many of the songs, but blues forms the base of everything here, even the harder edged tracks. Give it a listen and see if you don't agree; make sure to turn it up loud!
The Songs: (all songs written and arranged by Jeff Chapman)
1. My Baby's Comin' Back To Me
--The CD kicks off with this feel good, mid-tempo, rockin' blues track. Jeff's deep toned voice works exceedingly well with this type of material, imparting emotional depth and honesty to his lyrics. A very nice touch is the organ featurette during the last 30-40 seconds of the song.
2. Homecoming Queen
--An ode to missing your woman while away from home, whether musician, trucker, military man or any other reason that would keep a man away from home longer than he would like. This isn't a syrupy ballad though; it's a cool little rockin' cut featuring tasteful lead guitar work from Sean Harris.
3. Can't Get Right
--This is a hard shuffle (longtime readers know old East Side Slim loves the shuffle!), which serves as a frame of sorts for Jerry Chapman's guitar playing and for the organ work of Harry Lounsberry. Jeff's lyrics speak to how tough a person's life can be when he/she keeps on making poor and/or harmful lifestyle choices (especially when harmful to others) – life will reach on up and slap you upside the head. If you're smart, you'll pay attention and shape up when/if that happens!
4. Got To Move
--After the series of mid- to up-tempo tunes that opened the CD, Jeff and band slow things down a little here, not just in tempo but also in mood. This song sports an interesting drum pattern, prominently features organ, and Jeff's vocal turn is darker, more melancholy, than on the preceding songs. This is definitely one of the standout tunes on the album.
5. Psycho Magnet
--A little humor injected to what can be a frustrating situation – trying to find a significant other who isn't crazy! The man in this song runs through a string of 'em, but at the end of the day the common denominator is….him! A little self-evaluation may be in order for that particular young man; that, and staying away from fugitive girls.
6. Sometimes You Gotta Help Yourself
--This is an old-school rocker, and it sounds great - it also happens to be another of the album's standout tunes. This one is all about loud guitars (Jerry Chapman on lead guitar), organ, great singing and killer hooks.
7. Song For Justin
--This track is a hands-down winner! It's a mid-tempo, highly emotional song, written and performed in the loving memory of Justin Hudson (Jeff's cousin; killed in 1997), as well as in memoriam to all the innocent children who are taken from their loved ones. For a reference, the song is built along the lines of a heavy, bluesy and tender - but yet powerful - southern rock song (there's a reason 1970s southern rock has held up so well over the years – the best of it is almost all blues-based.) The track features Jerry Chapman on lap steel, and the more I hear Jerry's lead playing the more I like it – great tone and taste. This cut is a real gem!
8. Thinkin' About Drinkin'
--The title is pretty much self-explanatory as to what this tune is about. I may have sequenced the songs on the CD a bit differently, not placing this mid-tempo shuffle right after Song For Justin, which is such a powerful, emotional cut. I think I would have placed Song For Justin at the end of the CD (a grand finale of sorts), as it's very difficult to follow a fantastic song such as that with anything else.
9. How I Live
--I like this song. Jeff slows things down and gets introspective with his lyrics, singing with amazing conviction. The man can flat…out…sing! Jeff has an ability to connect with the listener, which may be at least partly attributable to his years playing country music. When you peel back the layers and examine the core of C&W music lyrics, the best of it is derived from storytelling based upon real life experiences. And if you live long enough you'll sure enough have plenty of experiences (hopefully more good than bad.)
10. Last Night
--This is a mid-tempo bluesy shuffler, featuring nice, trebly guitar fills from Sean Harris. I've enjoyed Sean's playing on this CD, as he plays with great taste, as well as playing to the song – it's always nice to hear a musician play what's needed, rather than running scales. Let's call it addition through subtraction (of notes), so to speak.
11. Never Too Late
--Well, we're to the end of the CD. This is a slow bluesy tune built on an organ bed, acting as a stage for Jeff's powerful vocals and meaningful lyrics. Never too late…it's not too late to start over or to fix what you may have broken – or to make amends to whomever you may have hurt. Don't wait until it is too late…
Big Jeff's Blues - Vol. 2, is another very fine CD from Jeff Chapman and his band. I can't emphasize enough how good a singer Jeff is, and he's a talented songwriter as well - that's a talent not to be taken lightly. The CD is made up of 11 solid songs (no filler here), featuring 4 cuts - Got To Move, Sometimes You Gotta Help Yourself, Never Too Late, and of course, Song For Justin - that are as good as any you might hear on any rockin' bluesy album by anybody.
The CD and all packaging were produced locally to Jeff's home base, Greenville, Illinois. The skills of the musicians are 1st rate, and the more I listen to the CD the more I enjoy the organ work from Harry Lounsberry. You can never go wrong having solid organ playing on a project. The artwork is nicely done, and album note junkies will have plenty to look over. There seems to be a little muddiness/murkiness (compression issues?) in the bottom end of the album's sound, but that is the only negative among a bushel of positives and it won't stop you from enjoying this fine CD from a great St. Louis-area band. It's time to rate this bad boy; I'm giving Big Jeff's Blues - Vol. 2 a rating of 3.50 on the STLBluesometer.
For more information concerning Jeff Chapman, see the following websites:
Howland - aka
"East Side Slim"