REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict Steve Gunn and Brigid Mae Power, Rise @ Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, November 1

Steve Gunn: “Dexterously employing delay and effects, he was able to inject variation and other sound dimensions into otherwise attractive acoustic composition”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

THIS wildly popular Acomb café proved the perfect setting for Steve Gunn and Brigid Mae Power to kick off a tour as part of Bluebird Bakery’s rapidly expanding Rise programme of evening concerts.

The intimate surroundings put everyone at ease, the abstract art by York artist Rosie Bramley providing the ideal backdrop for the performers to slowly weave their magic.

Steve Gunn is one of the most talented acoustic guitar players (as well as a serial collaborator and producer), so it is credit to Joe Coates at Please Please You for enticing the New Yorker to Acomb.

With jetlag tapping Gunn on the shoulder (as he put it), it took a while for him to work his way into his set. By dexterously employing delay and effects, Gunn was able to inject variation and other sound dimensions into otherwise attractive acoustic compositions. At one point during Way Out Weather he risked tinnitus for us, by crouching right down to his speaker to get the (challenging) sound he was seeking before bringing us back to the safety of the original refrain.

Gunn’s approach is subtle, songs take time to perform, and, in truth, time to work their charm on the audience. On The Way and Morning River, both from his 2021 solo album Other You, occupied the first 25 minutes of the set. More memorable was Wildwood, a number about a place on the New Jersey coast that holds a special connection to him and his family.

Brigid Mae Power: “At their best, her songs are heart stopping, emotive fragments seemingly ripped from a diary”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

Gunn is touring with Brigid Mae Power in support. This Irish singer is justly a critical favourite, known for her heartfelt songs and beautiful voice. “Singing around a cough”, she spluttered while tuning, but she still sounded in fine voice.

Without the imaginative studio backings, Power’s material seems simply constructed and varies little. At their best, however,  they are heart stopping, emotive fragments seemingly ripped from a diary. Some Life You’ve Known was wonderful and perhaps the best song of the entire evening.

Running it close was Gunn’s cover of the late Michael Chapman’s Among The Trees. Chapman wrote this elegiac number before he was 30, and the melancholy for summer’s past was more universal than Gunn’s pieces. It was nevertheless a treat to see two talented performers up close and be able to hear and appreciate every note.

Review by Paul Rhodes, 1/11/2023

N.B. A launch Party for A Yorkshire Tribute To Michael Chapman, a compilation album curated by Henry Parker for release on the Tompkins Square label, will take place is at The Crescent on Friday,  December 1. Taking part will be Andrew DR Abbott, Chris Brain, Holly Blackshaw, Bobby Lee, Dean McPhee, Henry Parker and Katie Spencer. Box office:

On the Rise stage: Steve Gunn performing against the backdrop of Rosie Bramley’s paintings at Bluebird Bakery, Acomb. Picture: Paul Rhodes

Michael Chapman’s concert at Merchant Adventurers’ Hall to be streamed on Sunday

Michael Chapman recording Ancient & Modern at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, for streaming on Sunday

VETERAN troubadour Michael Chapman has recorded a special concert during Lockdown 2 at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, to be streamed online on Sunday (29/11/2020) at 7pm.

Filmed on November 12, the Ancient & Modern recording represents a look-back over the long and illustrious career of the 79-year-old Leeds singer, songwriter and guitarist, who combines classics and newer compositions in a concert also featuring a support slot and interview by close friend and mentee Katie Spencer. 

Sunday’s event marks a first venture into streamed concerts by the York community venue The Crescent and promoters Please Please You and Ouroboros, alias Joe Coates and Harkirit Boparai.

“This is new terrain for us, but we are big believers in Michael and his music, and it’s an honour to present him during these times and at this point in his career” says Boparai. “Michael is a unique musician with more than 50 years of experience, floating between Americana, blues and psychedelic folk.”

Boparai was delighted the recording could go ahead despite Lockdown 2 being imposed from November 5. “We were lucky, the lockdown nearly threw everything, but then it emerged under the Government guidance that streaming and rehearsal were permitted as long as everyone involved were ‘professionals’,” he says. 

“They still want us to work! I also think, to be fair, they saw the value in allowing culture to continue in an online form. 

Chapman by candlelight: The poster for Sunday’s streamed concert from the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall by Michael Chapman

“Merchant Adventurers’ Hall had a new clerk starting in the week of lockdown, and I remember anxiously waiting for their decision and interpretation of guidance…”.

Good news was forthcoming, whereupon Chapman could head to the hall. Explaining his choice of concert title, he says: “I wanted to call it Ancient & Modern in reference to the hymn books of days gone by and because it reflects the songs I selected to play for this show.” 

The title also acknowledges Chapman’s approach and sound. While firmly rooted in traditional folk, blues and Americana, his constant pushing of the envelope has inspired a new generation of artists, such as instrumentalist-turned-singer Steve Gunn, who produced his last two albums for the Paradise Of Bachelors label, 50 and True North, featuring pedal-steel guitarist BJ Cole and singer-songwriter and guitarist Bridget St John.

Gunn says: ‘It’s been an honour to share a stage with Michael, or even just to be in the room when he’s playing. I know so many of his stories and songs by heart now. I cherish them.”’

This continuous evolution of style has garnered a cult following for Chapman, also making him virtually impossible to categorise. While this may sometimes infuriate reviewers and concert bookers alike, it is exactly what keeps his fervent supporters on board and has brought a whole raft of younger appreciators to his music over the past decade. 

Chapman’s journey has taken him from the acoustic virtuoso of the early Cornish folk days, typified by his Fully Qualified Survivor album, through to Memphis Soul, courtesy of Stax producer Don Nix, and the album Savage Amusement, dipping into New Age music via Heartbeat, and onwards even to full-on improv for Thurston Moore’s label, Ecstatic Peace.

Moore says: “Michael Chapman, beyond the machinations of the record industry, became the great teacher for all of us guitar playing songwriters coming up in the late-20th century. With an organic mix of passion and remove, he showed that getting lost in the music was a way to find the truth of the heart. No better lesson learned, I’d say.” 

After making the acoustic guitar his own, Chapman has been exploring the electric guitar in these latter, mellower years, while still retaining the intensity of his playing and song-writing.

Chapman may be approaching 80 – that landmark will fall on January 24 2021 – but it will not diminish his need to move the music forward, dip into the past and embrace the present with as much enthusiasm and fervour as a man at his stage in life can muster. 

“Michael’s online concert will be available for ticket holders to watch as many times as they like for up to three days from the time of broadcast, and you can watch on computers, phones or through smart TVs and Chromecasts,” says Boparai.

For more information and tickets, head to: For a downloadable video teaser, go to:

Tickets cost £10 or you can choose to pay £15 to further support Michael Chapman and the freelance production crew during these difficult times.

For the last word on Chapman’s lasting impact, here is Rockford, Illinois guitarist, singer and songwriter Ryley Walker: “One of my greatest influences in life. Taught me to play guitar better, act like a professional, and always demand the cash at the end of the night. 80 years and just getting started. A true honour and privilege to call Michael a friend and mentor. MC shows love and truth in every tune. Guitar king and living legend Michael Chapman!”