Monterey County Weekly Feature! by Adam Joseph It was one of those lightbulb moments, when Amee Chapman, then 15, was asked to sing with a band her father recruited for her mother’s birthday. “My mom always says that my face lit up when the band played the first note,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s on.’” From that day on, Chapman knew music would have a predominant role in her life. After several years as a solo folk act, she added a band to the mix, the Velvet Tumbleweeds, with Mike Johnson (guitars, ebo, lap steel), Slade McCombs (bass), Paul Garcia (drums), Mike Sparber (mandolin) and Dave Wren (pedal steel). The band brought an Americana spin to her sound while paying homage to her father, who was always playing Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson records. “[The band] adds twang to the storytelling,” she says. “I call [our music] sage-brushed soul—there’s some country and folk and old R&B influences.” Chapman’s new record Grace is Hell to Keep—the title inspired by a weathered showman who loved what he did despite the toll touring took—embodies all of those influences through pedal steel, banjo, mandolin and organ. Alongside crashing cymbal and weeping lap steel, Chapman conjures the vigor of Loretta Lynn on “Darkest Blue.” The Texas-scented ballad “Not Too Late” is an amalgamation of lush pedal steel with Chapman exuding sensuality and ruggedness. The words are a cherry on top: “We’re falling asleep to the scent of the sea/ Talking drunk, sand in our sheets.” Chapman’s wife Nichole Robbins pens most of the song lyrics—rarely is the songwriting team ever out of sync. “I can think of only a handful of times where I couldn’t do anything with [her lyrics],” Chapman says. “I think because we’re living the same kind of experience, we think about the same things to write.” Chapman and the Velvet Tumbleweeds make their Fernwood debut on Saturday. Amee Chapman and the Velvet Tumbleweeds perform at 9pm Saturday, June 8, at Fernwood Tavern and Campgrounds, 47200 Highway 1, Big Sur. Free. 667-2422.

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Amee Chapman