Proving that she has life long beyond her breakthrough single "Fast Car," Tracy Chapman sold eight million copies of 1995's New Beginning. She picks up where she left off, with this impressive follow-up.
Telling Stories finds the songwriter exploring themes of faith, love, deception, and a search for some sort of elusive spiritual perfection. It starts convincingly with the title track, an organ and guitar backed tale of truth, lies and lessons learned. The song is one of Chapman's best, capitalizing on her ability to cast her soothing voice into some blistering lyrical terrain.
And while that voice is relatively limited, Chapman has learned to broaden her sound with subtle dynamic and musical shifts. She uses harmonies sparingly but very effectively in songs like "It's Ok," and brings in rugged electric guitar textures into "Speak the Word." There's a beautiful mix of stringed instruments that gives a rustic feel to the money-obsessed saga "Paper and Ink,'' and elsewhere she very effectively balances the electric and acoustic mix, while singing about an old flame in "Less Than Strangers."
Co-produced by Chapman and David Kershenbaum, Telling Stories is also highlighted by the truly unforgettable and very introspective "Unsung Psalm," which will likely leave listeners examining their own lives and mistakes made along the way.