Singer-songwriter Jen Chapin and bassist Stephan Crump make their recording debut as a duo on "Open Wide."
Performing 10 original compositions by Chapin, the pair delivers a jazzy-urban folk sound that recalls Rickie Lee Jones. Unfortunately, "Open Wide" lacks the infectious exuberance of Jones.
Still, the CD is not without personality. There is a fresh simplicity in an album that features only the human voice backed by the beat of an acoustic bass. On "Don’t Miss You," Chapin and Crump fall into a playful groove with her bouncy vocals perfectly accentuated by his bass. Those free-wheelin’ moments, however, don’t come often enough.
Throughout her songs, Chapin reveals a storyteller’s eye for description much like her father, the late folk singer Harry Chapin of "Cat’s in the Cradle" fame. She, however, has her own style. On "Gold," she writes, "An old lady once said to me/She said ’You see what I got?/ So I turned to see/She was sitting empty-handed with a secret smile/And she said ‘I got gold and it shines in dark places..." Other songs are ruminations of love and life in the city.
Crump is a talented bassist. His 2001 release, Tuckahoe, earned the Memphis native solid marks. He, however, takes a backseat on "Open Wide," letting Chapin stay in the forefront with her idiosyncratic lyrics and dulcet voice. It would have been nice to let me him cut loose a few more times.
There’s much promise here, and it will be interesting to see what the duo does next.