Hello H(elsinki) H(udson) F(riend)s:
I’m a huge fan of singer-songwriter Jen Chapin — who performed several memorable concerts in the original Club Helsinki listening room in Great Barrington, Mass. — as is my good friend Seth Rogovoy, who is bringing Jen to Club Helsinki Hudson for the first time on Sunday, August 13, at 7pm, as part of the Rogovoy Salon, the new music and literary series curated and hosted by the eponymous cultural journalist and music critic.
So, Seth – tell us why you chose Jen Chapin to perform at the Rogovoy Salon?
“Jen is a remarkable songwriter, an untouchable vocalist, and one of our greatest song interpreters,” says Rogovoy. “While to some extent to the manor born [Seth is punning on Shakespeare here, as well as referencing Jen's father, the late Harry Chapin], Jen has totally carved out her own unique path, with her vocals that owe as much to jazz artists including Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Cassandra Wilson as to any folk singers; her compositions that are infused with soul influences of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Motown; all delivered as if she were a new-folk singer-songwriter, except that she’s not. She defies genre in a similar way to her fellow Brooklynite, Norah Jones. Except she was doing it even before Norah!”
Jen has been celebrated for writing “brilliant soulfully poetic urban folk music” (NPR) for well over a decade, beginning with her stunning debut album, “Open Wide,” in 2002, followed up by “Linger” in 2004, which featured such sensual numbers as “I Could Fall,” “Good at Love,” “Me Be Me” and “Little Hours” alongside her sociopolitically charged “Passive People” (an indictment of apathy) and her poignant 9/11 eulogy, “Hurry Up Sky.”
The song “Let It Show” on 2006′s “Ready” was one of her first songs dealing with the responsibilities of parenthood, while the title track was a sultry, bedroom number, as is one of my all-time favorites, “Skin.” “Election Day” reflected on her experience as a volunteer in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election (and in which, it should be pointed out, she uses the word “complicity,” years before it took on a whole other meaning).
Chapin’s 2013 album “Reckoning,” produced and engineered by five-time Grammy Award-winner Kevin Killen (U2, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush), is a collection of urban folk/jazz/pop storytelling songs, reckoning with the challenge of balancing creative ambitions with the immediate demands of mothering small children, combined with a good dose of social commentary (“Gospel,” celebrating social justice movements) – as well as some more of that sultry stuff. She also lets down her hair on the amusing “Go Away,” a fantasy to which every mother of young children can relate. She talks about the making of “Reckoning” as well as how she defines her work, in this video interview. The record also includes the rockin’ tribute to motherhood, “Feed Your Baby”.
Nurtured in and around New York City by a large family of artists, writers, and musicians, Chapin’s “observant, lyrically deft, politically aware and emotionally intuitive” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) songwriting features her gorgeous, gritty vocals and the accompaniment of Brooklyn’s finest jazz musicians, solidified by appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien (on which she played her early favorite, “Little Hours”), NPR’s Mountain Stage, WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, WFUV’s Sunday Breakfast with John Platt, TEDx Manhattan, Mary Sue Twohy’s Folk Village, and the Bob Edwards Show on Sirius Satellite.
As much as an artistic legacy, the roots of Chapin’s upbringing have inspired her “potent, jazzy, layered folk” (Newsday) songs and a lifetime of passionate activism, through ongoing work with WhyHunger (founded by Harry Chapin), and other food justice groups.
Chapin has performed on stage with Bruce Springsteen (check out her cover of his “American Skin (41 Shots)”) and on bills with Aimee Mann, Bruce Hornsby, and the Neville Brothers. Her rendition of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” was featured in an episode of the SyFy TV series “Defiance,” and her song “Go Away” was honored by the USA Songwriting Competition.
Jen also released “Revisions,” featuring a dozen covers of Stevie Wonder songs, in 2009. Check out her live version of “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” Jen also does a jazzy cover of Radiohead’s “Backdrifts.”
Oh, and did I tell you Jen’s two boys are named Maceo and Van? That alone is very telling of where she comes from, and where she is, musically speaking.
Seth says, “If you’ve never seen Jen Chapin, trust me – come to the show, and you will leave a fan. And if you have already seen her … well then, I know I’ll see you there!”
Remember – for reservations in The Restaurant or in the club call 518.828.4800. To purchase tickets online go here. For the most up-to-date concert information, always visit Club Helsinki Hudson.
Henry Helsinki Hudson
Club Helsinki Hudson
405 Columbia St.