Where You Live

Studio Album by released in 2005

Where You Live review

Few people can be unfamiliar with Tracy Chapman's self-titled debut album, released all the way back in 1988. With songs such as Fast Car and Talkin' Bout A Revolution, she managed the rare feat of being both political and passionate, both earnest and enjoyable. With her strong, compelling voice added into things, its appeal was immense, its legacy considerable. Seventeen years on from her debut, Tracy Chapman is still unique. Her new album, Where You Live, follows the usual format, with her acoustic guitar matched against minimalist backing, strong melodies and sturdy but gloomy songs. The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter recorded this album over the last five years and co-produced it with engineer and mixer Tchad Blake (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, Pearl Jam). That might seem like a long time to record 11 songs but with Chapman herself playing instruments that range from bass and drums, to glockenspiel, clarinet and mandolin, plus other musicians, including Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea, a lot of work clearly went into recording Where You Live.

This album sees Chapman engaging once more with the issues that move her: issues of class and wealth, issues of faith and love. Her folk-flecked, emotive vocal style remains endearing, as she meanders through a range of styles including the haunting world music of 3,000 Miles and Going Back, the folk rock of Change and the rootsy Americana of Before Easter and America. Chapman wasn't to know it when she recorded the set, but after New Orleans the time is right for new songs pointing up the divisions and poverty within the US. Her penchant for tuneful torch songs is once again evident throughout as is her knack for writing simple and effective, thought-provoking lines. Among the outwardly questioning songs, Chapman also offers a fair amount of introspection and in Love's Proof she provides a romantic song in the tradition of Baby Can I Hold You. Don't Dwell is a strangely delicate love song; spare yet haunting and deeply atmospheric, it is quite unlike anything she's done before.

For nearly two decades, Tracy Chapman has been a truly individual voice on the modern musical landscape, charting an artistic path that owes nothing to trend and fashion, and everything to personal spirit, intelligence, and integrity. She has managed to carve a niche for herself with her kind of effortlessly delivered soulful folk and Where You Live would be a good introduction to her talent for many people. Far removed from the claustrophobic pop productions of the day, Chapman's new album boasts an airy, wide-open sound that complements the forthrightness of her songs. Where You Live possesses an aural integrity and nuanced emotionalism rarely evidenced in contemporary pop music.