Marshall Chapman, “Songs I Can’t Live Without" (Tallgirl Records)
As Marshall Chapman sings the great North American songbook on her new album, the style of tunes chosen is all over the map, probably because they came from such diverse locales as New York, Tennessee, Detroit, Oklahoma and Canada.
That's part of the beauty to “Songs I Can't Live Without,” and Chapman makes them all her own. The South Carolina native, who lives in Nashville, covers nine mostly familiar tunes so convincingly it's easy to envision her recording an entertaining set devoted to any one of the composers.
Leonard Cohen, for example, would be a good choice. Chapman's slight twang and thoughtful phrasing bring out the wit in his “Tower of Song."
Her sultry alto is a fine match for Bob Seger's road-warrior narrative “Turn the Page,” and she crafts “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” as a reminder we eternally remain teenagers, especially when it comes to romance.
There are also compelling performances of songs identified with Johnny Cash, Chet Baker, J.J. Cale, Bobby Charles and Elvis. The lean arrangements throughout benefit from the work of guitarist Will Kimbrough, who masterfully creates appropriate atmospherics.
The finale is the sauntering gospel of “He's Got the Whole World In His Hands,” with Chapman resurrecting a favorite from her childhood. She grew up to become a fine songwriter, but it's her skills as a interpreter that make this album — her 14th — perhaps her best.