by Geoffrey Redick, producer
Marshall Chapman is having one of those years. A new CD, a new book, and a movie role. In “Country Strong” She plays Winnie, the road manager of an aging country music star, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. The film opens on January 7. Chapman’s book is titled, “They Came to Nashville,” and it’s a rare chance to read about the humble beginnings of some legendary Music City musicians. Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, and others talk about their first night in town, and why they chose Nashville instead of New York or LA. It’s interesting to imagine how American music might sound different if any of these folks had given up on their dreams too soon. Chapman’s new CD is by far the most personal, and most moving of her artistic efforts this year. “Big Lonesome” is an album length requiem for her close friend Tim Krekel, who died in 2009. Chapman and Krekel knew each other for decades, and the pain of his abscence is palpable in songs like “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” “Tim Revisited,” and “Going Away Party” — not to mention the title track.
Marshall Chapman has had a long career in music. By comparison, our other Nashville guest this week is just beginning. Susan Gregg Gilmore worked for decades as a journalist before she got burned out by the long hours and low pay of a freelancer. Better for all of us that she decided to write novels. Her first, “Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen,” was published in 2008 and earned priase from NPR’s reviewer Alan Cheuse. Her new book is titled, “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove.” Bezelia comes of age in a racially charged environment, falling for the wrong sorts of boys. She struggles to endure her parents and live up to her lineage. Gilmore patterened the title character’s home on Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation, and that’s where we spoke.