Jen Chaplin album cover

Jen Chapin is a name that has been slowly and steadily gaining recognition throughout the music world. While largely Jazz in nature, Chapin is one of the few Jazz artists that are tremendously accessible to the worlds of pop, singer/songwriter, world, and alternative music. Along with husband and world class bassist Stephan Crump, Chapin has crafted another masterpiece from her life experiences.

For those familiar with Chapin and Crump’s previous albums, “Ready” strikes a perfect balance between the minimalist “Open Wide” album and the more band-oriented “Linger.” The full band is still here, but there is a quiet anticipation to the songs that reminds me a lot of the songs on “Open Wide.”

The album opens with the cool Jazz groove of “Strip It Bare.” This is a pretty catchy tune and an interesting way to start the album as the verses of the song have much more of a bass/vocal orientation than most of the material on her last album. It kind of leaves you wondering where she will take it from there. Of course, she takes the rest of the album to amazing places (I have come to expect no less). The Jazz groove Chapin/Crump are known for underlies the entire album but hits you right between the eyes on “NYC” as Chapin wails that she hasn’t found the real thing and she wants to go back to NYC. The percussion on this song really grabs me; you don’t hear enough breaks that feature rhythm sections these days.

Other highlights among highlights include the off kilter “Election Day” that finds Chapin’s powerful voice backed by what I believe to be a ukulele (don’t worry, not in a Tiny Tim kinda way). The epically beautiful “Scream Laugh Cry” is my personal favorite. It has the same kind of build that I loved about many of the songs on “Linger,” but in particular “Regular Life.” Each and every song really is its own unique voice on this album so it becomes very hard to pick just a few out because they are all worthy of some space.

Overall, if you have never heard Jen Chapin’s music before then this is as good of a place to start as any. Chapin began her career as one of the most talented artists in music and it continues with this phenomenal collection of Jazz-based songs. Don’t miss out on “Ready” and while you are checking it out be sure to check out the organization her father (the late Harry Chapin) co-founded, World Hunger Year, at www.worldhungeryear.org.

Mark Fisher of Fairmont writes music features and reviews for the Times West Virginian.

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