City Paper is not for tourists
Long before today’s riot grrrls were strumming Barbies, Marshall Chapman was strapping on Fenders. She was a founding member of the small sorority of hard-picking female singer/songwriters, country- rock division, and in a just universe she would have become a star. Despite a gift for writing and performing succinct lyrics—“A .45’s better than 409/Betty cleaned the house for the very last time” is the closing couplet of her song “Betty’s Bein’ Bad”—the Spartanburg, S.C., native has never broken into the big time; in fact, sometimes she’s just been broke. However, the lanky Chapman is a survivor, as well as a relentless slammer of chords and rouser of crowds. All this is established firmly on her new disc, It’s About Time…. Recorded live at the Tennessee State Prison for Women, the collection begins with the only logical choice (and the only cover): “Jailhouse Rock.” The other 14 numbers come from Chapman’s self-penned or collaborative catalog of tough guys and tougher gals, all of whom she sings about in a grown-up growl before a crowd uniquely equipped to appreciate songs about women in man trouble, women making trouble for men, and women transcending trouble no matter what its gender origins.