With Norah Jones so effectively carrying the jazz/pop banner into the inert ears of mainstream music, one need not gander far to find others like her. Sometimes it really does take one good musician to push an entire horde through the door, but at least in terms of Jones, she touts a far classier brand of pop music. Like many occasions before, those who come through following have either been just as profound or noticeably poor. Jen Chapin has indeed come through this window of opportunity, yet we can’t dismiss her as a product of someone else’s grand appeal – otherwise we would simply overlook Chapin as nothing more than an offshoot of some current wave of popularity; and that assumption would be glaringly erroneous. She is in fact, quite well schooled in the musical arts; it is practically in her blood: Chapin is the daughter of late folk artist Harry Chapin. The elder, noted for his hit “Cats in the Cradle,” was as much a musician as he was a social activist; often spreading much of his moral values through the songs he wrote.
While the younger is very much an activist for the social cause (she sits on the board of directors for the WHY organization – founded by her late father), her music isn’t just her voice of cause to the masses. Far from it, Linger is very much her personality as well; telling stories of discovery, finding one’s self in the world and her briskly pleasing take on the emotions of the heart. Much like her award-winning counterpart, Chapin’s music is an amalgam of breezy light-jazz resting in cloudless pop elements while at times soaking in splendid bluegrass rays. It soothes as much as it sways and for the most part, Linger will appeal to both enthusiasts of modern jazz/blues and to those more receptive of pop music. Chapin opens her latest chapter with the delightful pull of “Little Hours.” The nimble, good-natured effort is the album’s most musically sound track; reminiscent of Paula Cole’s better days or Sarah McLachlan back in 1993. It boasts an excellent refrain while the melodies sparkle in crystal clear polish. Yet perhaps, in terms of more accessible means, “Little Hours” is as far as she’ll go into general territory.
The remainder of the album is far more comprehensive, leaning more towards grandeur and chic. Determined on building deeper connections with the listener, it flourishes with more reflective song structures, lengthier execution and a particular, elegant sophistication. Not surprisingly, the music resonates with the graceful charm of more classical instruments. The downbeat hum of “Hurry Up Sky” becomes ever more soulful in reflection incased within her beautiful-as-falling-snow voice and deep murmur of low-end instrumentation.
Moreover, her music has the ability to traverse different levels of listening; or in some respects, certain moods. While it would appear on first listen most reflect some level of sadness, it is deceivingly so. Occasions alluding to more definitive musical arcadia are not far to find; from the aforementioned “Little Hours”, gleaming in its untroubled self-assurance, to the oblique observations of “City,” the album does well to capture many contrasting atmospheres with nothing more than slight changes. It does however prompt the album’s most significant setback – while consistent in its entirety, it remains indifferent in the longer efforts. The tracks of greater length (more than six minutes worth) require a far more tuned approach to truly appreciate, and detracts from the approachability of those more undemanding. It is nevertheless a small grievance when considering the rest of the palette. Chapin has done remarkably well with Linger; a truly pleasant and tender record. And an album so near to immaculate deserves plenty of heartfelt admiration.