Chris Chambers, A Crack in Time (Iveshead, 2003)

This is the most depressing CD I have listened to in years.

Chris Chambers has a beautiful voice, and he strums a mean guitar. This album is a mixture of songs and instrumental pieces. The latter ("For David", "The River", "The Bridge at Mostar" and "Cooder's Blues") are exquisite, showcasing his strumming and plucking.

However, Chambers' lyrics are depressing -- nay, crushing. Let me explain.

"Children of the Road" is about sticky summer nights and destinations never quite attained. "A Crack In Time" explores and deplores the reality of aging, and of not being able to escape the consequences of the past by crawling through a crack in time. "High and Lonesome" is a plaintive cry against the loneliness of being a lighthouse keeper. "September Moon" is another ballad inspired by the late-summer heat. "What Rossetti Saw" is obsessed with missed (sexual) opportunities. "Willie Lennox" is the tragic tale of a young man who goes swimming in water he had been warned against entering and drowns. In "Chittermans", two people get lost in a mystic wood, despite compass and map, and keep ending up at the same crossroads in the mist.

All the songs on this recording are by Chambers, except for "Willie Lennox", which is traditional. Chambers' own lyrics are repetitive and convoluted. "It was warm in the golden sun, in the heat of the day" is one example from "September Moon." The refrain of "What Rossetti Saw" ends with three cries of "and you were gone." Basically, he seems never to have heard the old adage "SHOW them, don't TELL them." This is especially evident in "High and Lonesome", where he keeps repeating that he is lonesome without showing us any effects of the lonesomeness (except, perhaps, that it makes him whiningly repetitive).

I found this recording to be a waste of Chris Chambers' talents. His voice and his skill on the guitar would be put to much better use with different lyrics. If he wants to sing sad songs, so be it, there are plenty of good sad songs. These dirges, however, do not do him justice. I would be curious to hear another of his recordings, just to see what he does with other people's music. I bet it would be worth listening to.

 

[Faith Cormier]

Chris Chambers is an English singer-songwriter living in Leicestershire.
Besides touring and recording, he also gives guitar workshops.