Guitar picker Paul Chasman turned a new musical corner by delving into the craft of songwriting in his most recent CD. Basics was recorded entirely live, without overdubs, at Kung Fu Bakery Studios in Portland, OR. While long known for his guitar playing, he makes his debut here as a vocalist and there’s a lot of joy that shines through his voice on these songs. Chasman is quite the showman. He creates elaborate accompaniments with hot guitar leads and backup, plus harmonica on several cuts, which makes the live presentation all the more impressive since he is singing with great gusto at the same time. His vocals are a little rough around the edges, now and then straying from the pitch, but his voice is pleasant and his phrasing is expressive.
Chasman discovered he had a knack for writing lyrics while he was recovering from hand surgery. He became quite prolific in a short period of time, turning out these 16 songs and recording them within the next year. He brings humor and a perceptive edge to topics like population, racism (Ballad of Muhammad Ali), the environment, wolves, politics (Free Nation Blues) and death (“Well, it’s ashes to ashes and it’s dust to dust; nothing is free, just one guarantee, it’s a short stretch from dawn to dusk; you can’t walk, run, hide or crawl, when your number is called”). Styles range from country blues to folk fingerpicking to light jazz (Water Song), and his guitar cries the blues on Song for the Wolf. His playing stands out on every track, but is especially sweet on I Don’t Have the Blues, Meat and Potatoes (the only instrumental), This Guitar, and one of my favorites, I’m Just Sayin’ (“Kinda like Egypt, kinda like Iran, a woman’s fate is decided by man. No matter if you’re 12 or the father’s unknown, you’d better have that baby, then you’re on your own, but I’m just sayin’… The truth’s not always what they claim, ‘cause if you really value life, you’ll care for who remains. I don’t mean to complain, I’m just sayin’…”).
Sometimes Chasman delivers his song in character, as in I’m So Special that tells the truth about life with cats (“It’s 3 in the morning, wake up ‘cause I want to go out! You open the door but now I am having some doubts. I’ll let you know if I decide to go… Just stand there and wait, while you I berate, go fill up my plate (not with that stuff I hate, never mind, it’s too late!), I’m off to the rug to throw up everything I just ate… I’m so special…”).
Basics is a witty, clever and entertaining collection of songs. Chasman’s fans will enjoy the abundance of good guitar music throughout, and the audio quality is excellent considering the challenges of live recording. A suggestion for the future would be to include lyrics either with the CD or on the website.