Marshall Chapman – Blaze of Glory (2013)

Blaze of Glory, a spacious record that lets every word echo in your heart, finds Marshall Chapman — as she has for ages — telling difficult truths, loving with all of her might, and country-rocking her ass off.

Hard on the heels of 2010′s Big Lonesome, this 11-song story cycle (due May 28, 2013 from TallGirl Records) finds the Spartanburg, South Carolina native working again with a frisky, soul-lifting crew including Will Kimbrough, Mike Utley, Casey Wood and Jim Mayer. There’s an additional vocal on the Diddley-inspired opening “Love in the Wind” from Todd Snider, for whom Chapman opened while promoting her last effort. Elsewhere, she covers “The Nearness of You” (giving it a twilit, Jagger-y tonk reading) and “Blues Stay Away from Me,” as well.

The heart of the album, however, is found among her raw and so very brave originals, the moments when Chapman confronts the kind of demons we all bed down with — be that our uncertainties about love (“Beyond Love”), looming mortality (the swirlingly dark, Johnny Cash-inspired “Dreams and Memories,” the camp-fire sing-along “Not Afraid to Die”), or the search for broader meaning in things (“Waiting for the Music”).

Meanwhile, hard-eyed, tartly hopeful moments like “Let’s Make Waves” and the closing title track make clear that, whatever her misgivings and concerns, whatever life and love throw at her, Chapman remains a tough-as-polished-nails, take-no-shit survivor. She may get knocked back on the heels of her scuffed-up boots sometimes, but she ain’t going nowhere.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.