An album marked out by lyrical and musical maturity.
Michael Quinn 2008-11-28
Twenty years on from her eponymous debut, Tracy Chapman continues to harness the private and personal as eloquent levers to probe the public and the political. On her eighth studio album, the now 44-year-old chanteuse turns in, as you would expect, a collection of well-crafted songs, each with its own pertinent point to make, their gentle barbs and sometimes not so gentle stings clothed in distinctively warm melodies and understated vocals.
There's a parched poignancy about much of Our Bright Future that comes from Chapman returning to old, well-worn but as yet unresolved issues – not least religion as a divisive force in the quietly despairing Save Us All, and surrendering to the contrariness of the inequality of love in the plaintive Conditional and the delightfully knowing A Theory.
The vagaries of recent events in her native United States and wider afield are also pointedly referenced in the jaded observations of The First Person On Earth and, more reassuringly, in the quietly optimistic Something To See, ''No warm, no greed / That would be something to see / I hope I live that long''.
Throwing Chapman's own gentle self-restraint into sharp relief here is producer Larry Klein, whose contribution to the creation and cultivation of Joni Mitchell’s brittle but communicative sound was significant to say the least. His mellow, meticulously subtle production eschews the histrionics that characterised much of Chapman's past to perfectly frame the tremulously voiced, fractured balladry of an album marked out by lyrical and musical maturity.