Release Date: Nov 11, 2008
Record label: Atlantic
She's been out of the spotlight for three years, but little has changed about Tracy Chapman or her music. All the tracks on her eighth studio album, Our Bright Future, are as clear as her voice, and the lyrics are simple and honest. Future is folk music that's thick with soul and a little country. Sure, we've heard it before, but who said sticking to what you do best is a bad thing? The tone of the album never varies from mellow; this bluesy coffee-shop music is still the very definition of "easy listening." Chapman continues to sing about love and commitment and never forgets to colour in a little spirituality and political commentary.
The Grammy-winner has a worthy reputation - and, yes, songs namecheck Katrina, Obama et al - but there's also a playful, reflective quality as Chapman looks back at the way music has shaped her life. She's terrific on obsessive love, while on 'Conditional', a riposte to commitment-phobes, she rails, 'There are strings attached... I want something back.' .
For Tracy Chapman, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Twenty years after her self-titled debut made her an unexpected overnight star, Chapman's music has changed remarkably little, and while it would be unfair to say she's revealed no stylistic growth since her first album, two decades on she's still following a remarkably similar path, offering well-crafted, midtempo acoustic-oriented songs rooted deep in issues of social justice and matters of the heart on her eighth album, Our Bright Future. Produced by Larry Klein, best known for his work with Joni Mitchell, Our Bright Future doesn't sound retro quite so much as it seems to have appeared by magic from some time warp linking Chapman to the early '70s, complete with Steve Gadd delivering supremely tasteful drumming and Dean Parks doing the same on guitar.