Tracy Chapman exploded out of the Boston folk scene in the late eighties, carrying the acoustic guitar-playing singer/songwriter mantle to a more political and socially conscious level than had recently been achieved. Her deep alto and throttled vocal delivery, combined with attentively scrutinized social scenarios presented in a simple, accessible manner, rocketed Tracy to the top of the charts and into the Grammy record books. Instrumentally crisp and minimal, Tracy Chapman is a compelling statement from the no-holds-barred singer/songwriter, stealing the focus away from the popular folk mafia.
Chapman expresses a heretofore unmined, feminist, disenfranchised point of view–from the helpless-but-hopeful underclass of the smash hit “Fast Car,” to the defiant politicos of “Talkin’ `Bout A Revolution.” In regards to other issues, Tracy responds to Suzanne Vega’s “Luka” with her own a capella song about domestic violence, “Behind The Wall“; and the percussive “Mountains O’ Things” is about material wealth. But Tracy Chapman is not all social politics; there are several rapturously tender love songs included as well.
There are many strong influences to be heard in Tracy’s voice, particularly Joan Armatrading (on “Baby Can I Hold You“) and Odetta. Infused with those powerful roots, Chapman dramatically changed the commercial stakes of folk music by blending a catchy, acoustic backdrop to her social rhetoric, and delivering her manifestos in a unique, commanding voice that seemed like a beacon in a sea of mediocrity.
Behind The Wall
Talkin’ ‘Bout A Revolution