Chance & Change
Visit keith-hampton.com for all the latest. CHANCE & CHANGE The second album: after a singer's debut, it's the second project that truly defines the artist. Skills are tested more seriously on the sophomore release, because it's less about arriving than it is about staying in the scene. "Since I live in the ephemeral performance space of the small-club singer-songwriter, my first CD was about [the very act of] making sure there was a permanent record of my work. It was important to have a calling card: a tangible product with which to market my live show," says Keith Hampton, one of Boston's quiet coffeehouse treasures. But after that first recording the question lingers: now what? And here's where the thoughtful baritone you might have met on COMING HOME: BOSTON SONG COLLECTIVE (Brave Records, 2005) makes a surprising-and very risky-choice: he's kept his second recording project raw, uncorrected and deeply real. "When anyone decides to put time and money into a recording, it's very tempting to tighten things up, and try to put on your Sunday best to impress. But these songs were demanding their own kind of setting, and I began to feel uncomfortable about the classic studio recording, let's-make-it-perfect mentality," says Hampton. Every live performer recognizes the syndrome-when a CD project comes out sounding like a publicity photo looks: prettier than the real thing. A frequent live performer, Keith knows the paradox of this gap between recording and reality: "My favorite performers are better live than on record, and I often prefer acoustic, stripped-down CDs to polished studio tracks. There's something more visceral about music that takes risks. People are affected by songs in such personal ways." So for this project Keith took it up a level by letting go: "I decided the next step in my song crafting was to deepen my own capacity for work that was scrupulously honest. I wanted to say things as clearly as I could in the lyrics. I wanted to find new harmonies that underscored the sentiment of the words and caught the ear by surprise-just as the original emotions caught me by surprise." And-he confesses-he wanted to hang out with his friends while making interesting music. "I decided it was time to make a recording by forgetting I was making a recording." The result is CHANCE & CHANGE, a beautifully balanced group of uniquely shaped songs about the mystery of things made more beautiful because they're simply observed and allowed to be. There's the heart-weary subject asking for a lullaby instead of a love song. Or the twin circles of seasonal nature and love ("I really got to know you in the winter/didn't I?") and the lightly Buddhist attempt to turn the relationship wisdom wheel ("Letting go is not the same as losing..."). There's a delicate song to the lunacy of love (Moon) and a loving sketch of and eight-year-old's fantasy play (I Will Not Fall Again). The collection also includes a pair of hand-on-heart wedding songs (This One and Sway), so emotionally direct and universal they would complement any ceremony. For these recording sessions, Keith is joined in the various living rooms of friends throughout the Boston area by master mandolin player Jim Dalton, world music guru Catherine Birrer on percussion, and Sandi Hammond on piano (another Brave Records artist and local Boston-area favorite songwriter). Together these classically trained friends quietly, carefully create something the new folk movement can always use: a chamber music CD that is alive, irregular and- therefore-perfect as it is.