Michael Chapman (1941-2021) released his debut album Rainmaker in 1969 on Harvest. He went on to release over fifty albums and influence many with his evocative songwriting and guitar prowess. From heady jams to expressive ballads to experimental noise, Chapman’s work continues to inspire. Tompkins Square recruited Henry Parker to curate a collection of covers by working musicians from Chapman’s home turf in Northern England. With stunning artwork by local artist Bunty Marshall mapping the important places in Michael’s life, and package design by D. Norsen, this 12th volume of Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem series is the ultimate tribute to a very dearly missed artist.
From Henry Parker: Tompkins Square approached me in Autumn 2022 about putting together a tribute album to Michael Chapman who had passed away one year ago, on my birthday, in 2021. I remember it well; Michael Chapman had always been a huge inspiration to me since starting out on the acoustic guitar and was the first artist I had heard who played the instrument with that heavy thumb, drop tuned sound. I first got the chance to see him live at the Bradford experimental music festival Threadfest in 2015 and then went on to watch him play many more times, in the northern towns of Halifax, Hebden Bridge and Preston, also getting the chance to support him on a couple of his Yorkshire dates in 2018, in Saltaire and his home town of Leeds.
With both Michael Chapman and myself proudly coming from the county of Yorkshire in northern England, Tomkins Square and I decided to make this compilation decidedly Yorkshire focused, bringing together seven other artists from the county who have drawn influence from the profound music of this man.
[For those who don’t know, Yorkshire is an area that spans much of northern England, with its people taking great pride in the county, never too seriously, and poking fun at the “soft south” or it’s near neighbour Lancashire.]
Michael’s sound always spanned from introspective folk songwriting to more experimental forms and naturally so does this album, created for Tompkins Square. When it came to choosing musicians to contribute to the record I was grateful for the Yorkshire limitation on who I could draw from, as the resulting album is comprised of eight artists, who have all shared stages with each other across the folk and experimental scenes in the area. The lack of “bigger” names on the record feels natural, there’s no ego about this project as there never was with Michael, who always seemed content touring the smaller clubs and making records for anyone who was interested.
The artwork for the project came together organically, and firmly within the Yorkshire cottage industry. Two months before I was asked to put this album together, I had played a show in Leeds for the launch of a new zine, centred on folklore and mythology. The artist and founder of the zine Bunty has an exceptional eye for detail and a profound love of Yorkshire landscape and culture. Her intricate maps and illustrations created for ‘Hwaet’ zine were the perfect starting point the for this record, and the cover art and inner sleeve is an ocean of detail for Michael Chapman’s incredible life, music and his connection to Yorkshire.
Label website: tompkinssquare.com
‘Among The Trees’ is one of the songs covered on the new album. Here’s a live original: