Chapman has long had a fascination, not just with American music, but the American South and West. So an album explicitly inspired by the country should come as no surprise. The joy is how much it highlights his fabulous guitar picking. “Sweet Little Friend from Georgia” and “Coming of the Roads” might seem relatively straightforward, but the more epic “Swamp” and “Gaddo’s Lake” delve into decidedly complex territory; in fact, the impressionistic “Swamp” is probably the record’s centerpiece. As an instrumental portrait of the southern states it’s loving, very finely honed, and played in a way that reminds you that Chapman is one of the best, and most undervalued, guitarists around. Even if “Jumping Geordie” has its origins on the other side of the Atlantic, it still fits in. For longtime fans, “Indian Annie’s Kitchen” brings back some memories of “Kodak Ghosts,” and throughout small touchstones of blues, country, and jazz slip by.
Ray Davies published a memoir chronicling his life-long affair with America in 2013. Naturally, it was called Americana, and that's also the title of this 2017 musical adaptation of the book. Davies plays a little fast and loose with his facts, which is perhaps a detriment in an autobiography but suits the condensed nature of songwriting. He doesn't tell a story with Americana – it's not a song cycle along the lines of Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) – but rather offers a series of vignettes, some torn from the pages of his book, others expanding upon its themes. Images of highways, cowboys, and movies dance through the songs, as do sly allusions to the Kinks. It's not just that there's an echo of "All Day and All of the Night" on "The Man Upstairs," either: "Poetry" recalls the pastoral jangle of Village Green Preservation Society and "The Great Highway" stomps like a Low Budget outtake.