"It’s probably no surprise that Chapin seems to naturally inhabit the characters in her songs -- her father was Harry Chapin, one of modern music’s greatest storytellers. But Jen is far funkier than her father ever was, even as she paints sometimes grim tableaux of frustrated wives, struggling mothers and a challenged populace.
Chapin’s at her direst in the harrowing “Feed Your Baby,” a driving first-person story of a mother’s futile attempts to make ends meet, and her relationship songs aren’t much sunnier: “I love it when you go away” she confides on “Go Away,” in which finishing her cup of coffee in silence is a much more attractive prospect than putting up with her reticent lover.
But it’s not all doom-and-gloom. “Let It Show” is a sweetly strummed lullaby in which a mother-to-be asks with wonder, “Will you be bumpy like a pine cone … Will you be smooth like sanded timber?” before extolling, “Find your joy and let it show.” That Chapin can find joy among “the ducks and the dreamers,” as she sings on the Sondheim-esque “Paris,” speaks to her formidable -- and ever-developing-- talents as a songwriter and a storyteller."
Download: “Gospel,” a beautifully understated social justice ode
Try if you like: Ani DiFranco, Tracey Thorn, Suzanne Vega
By Peter Chianca
(Read more: MUSIC: Four real-world women worth seeking out - Wicked Local, MA - North of Boston http://www.wickedlocal.com/northofboston/lifestyles/x914257068/MUSIC-Four-real-world-women-worth-seeking-out#ixzz2UcHmXgfu)
“Jen Chapin is an original.” Tom Terrell, NPR
“One truly fine album.” Grammy Award Winning mastering engineer, Bob Ludwig
“Jen Chapin's spirit of adventure is to be applauded in an age when too many singers either restrict themselves to safe standards or songbooks of all too frequently recorded works." Ken Dryden, All Music
“Despite occasionally touching on her father’s catalog, she is very much her own artist....” Thomas Kintner, Hartford Courant
NYC singer-songwriter Jen Chapin releases her new album, Reckoning, recorded, mixed and produced by the esteemed 5-time Grammy Award winner Kevin Killen. Killen has mixed, engineered and produced with U2, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Jewel, Bobby McFerrin, Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Shawn Colvin (among many others).
Chapin's Reckoning, a new collection of original songs written in Jen's distinctive blend of urban folk/jazz/pop storytelling, reckons with the challenge of balancing creative ambitions with the immediate demands of mothering small children -- combined with a good dose of social commentary. In the poignant “Let it Show”, she sings to her not-yet firstborn “..the one thing you should know/is find your joy and let it show,” then in the candid tango-tinged rocker “Go Away:” “I love when you go away/my patience returns like a long lost friend..” Jen’s band cooks right along under her intimate portrait of a broken food system in “Feed Your Baby” and “Insatiable,” her indictment of our militaristic and security-obsessed culture, while the sensuous reggae of “Don’t Talk” extols the virtues of non-verbal marital communication (i.e. sex!). Other songs include the fiery “Don’t Rush Me,” emerging from the experience of childbirth, and “Gospel” -- a celebration of social movements for economic justice and democracy around the world.
Basic tracking for the songs took place in mid-March at Mission Sound in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, overdubs followed at Stephan Crump’s home studio, and mixing at Killen’s favorite mix room, Zona Dulce in NYC. Reckoning was mastered by the legendary Bob Ludwig at his Gateway Studios in Portland, Maine. Killen describes Reckoning as "a very evocative album," and the collaboration as "a wonderful and fun experience with an incredible talented array of players." These players include Jen Chapin's long-time creative collaborators: her Grammy-nominated acoustic bassist/husband Stephan Crump, “unflappable melodist” (New York Times) Jamie Fox, "singular" (Village Voice) Liberty Ellman (guitarists), "highly regarded" (All Music) drummer Dan Rieser, and the "powerful" Martha Redbone (New Yorker) on background vocals.
Jen says, “I’ve always worked with intimates – old friends, longtime partners, even my husband. So I knew that I needed to trust Kevin Killen as a friend, as well as a master music maker. Our first meeting at a Brooklyn coffee shop on Flatbush Avenue confirmed what I had always heard – that, along with his formidable skills and experience, Kevin possesses a rare decency and unassuming kindness. So after an hour or so of our talking in happy shorthand about music and recording, I asked him if he might accompany me to pick up my 3 year old from pre-school. Of course he obliged and jumped unflinchingly into the chaos -- helping search for missing shoes, engaging with shy toddlers, carrying backpacks, and generally affirming the wisdom of my choice! Later, in the studio, Kevin created an adventurous space where we were all free to experiment, to take risks — he just made things happen!”
Jen Chapin’s music is urban folk soul — story songs that search for community and shared meaning, powered by the funk and improvisation of the city. Critics have hailed her work as “brilliant.. soulfully poetic” (NPR), “thoughtful.. worth-savoring” (People), “addictive” (Boston Globe), “smart, observant, lyrically deft, politically aware and emotionally intuitive” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). JazzTimes has called her “a first-rate storyteller” while Relix regards her as “one of the freshest voices singing today." Jen has been featured on “Late Nite with Conan O’Brien”, NPR’s Mountain Stage and WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, Sirius Satellite’s The Loft with Mike Marrone and Mary Sue Twohy’s The Village, been honored by the USA Songwriting Competition, has performed on stage with Bruce Springsteen, and has opened up for Bruce Hornsby, Smokey Robinson, and the Neville Brothers.
Jen’s music reflects a diversity of experience. She is mother to 7 year old Maceo and 3 year old Van Crump, who most often accompany their parents on tour. She is an activist, with a life-long involvement in WhyHunger (founded in 1975 by Jen’s late father Harry Chapin), an organization that champions innovative, community-based solutions to hunger and poverty; and is also active in the local and sustainable food movement. She is an educator, leading workshops and presentations to college, community and church groups, with a background teaching full-time in Brooklyn classrooms. And she is a student, with a BA in International Relations from Brown University, additional studies at Berklee College of Music, extensive travels and studies in Zimbabwe and Mexico, and an ongoing passion to learn more about the world, and its emerging pathways to greater social justice.