If musical influences were sweets, Leddra Chapman wouldn’t have wasted any time with her nose pressed up against the shop window. She’d have walked in, charmed the owner and been given free rein to create her own special selection. That’s the joyful impression left by her first album, Telling Tales.
At a time when young British female singer/songwriters are enjoying an unprecedented boom, hype is easily mistaken for genuine talent. Not in Chapman’s case. She rallies her musical instincts with flair and assurance. These songs are rounded stories, folk tales of love, fate and friendship for the 21st century, sung with crystal-clear diction and minimal embellishment, worthy of the all-important airplay they’ve been getting.
Those diverse musical influences lap at the edges without dominating or tipping into pretentiousness: a hint of Vaughan Williams here, Joni Mitchell there; the evocation of a brass band that momentarily transports you to a village green in summer (“Story”); a weakness for her toy piano on “Picking Oranges”.
“Edie” is one of the highlights, a searing vignette of a short, tragic life. Another, “Wine Glass” cleverly distils the trivial gesture – toying with a drink – that becomes overwhelmingly significant for the one left behind in a long-distance relationship. And the poignant “Wrap Me Up”, with its melancholy piano intro, is a bittersweet account of two people wanting different things from their love affair.
On stage, Chapman has an engaging charm that belies the depth of her lyrics; her showcase at the BBC Club last November was a shaft of sunshine on a bitterly cold winter’s day. Telling Tales is a pleasing and auspicious debut.