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Mary Chapin Carpenter’s music isn’t of the kind set to excite the listener, get them want to dance, albeit there has been exceptions during the singer-songwriter’s 30 year recording career. Her latest album is a bit of a surprise, since instead of a bunch of new songs she has settled for re-recording a dozen songs from her career, plus a brand new one in the title-track “Sometimes Just The Sky”. 

Produced by Ethan Johns, the album was recorded entirely live at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios outside Bath, England, and has long-time collaborator Duke Levine (guitar) and a handpicked band of Johns’ favourite pickers give Carpenter’s songs a timely update. The playing and lyrical content is awash in much grace as she reflects on numerous aspects of life, speaks of two lanes as she questions what someone is running from on “The Moon And St. Christopher” (and though classy I mused to myself wasn’t the original stronger), and with it followed by little heard 2001 recording “Superman” (found on Borders Books) the album is in the main a gentle, dreamy affair. 

On given the introduction of fiddle, mandolin and harmony vocals “Naked To The Earth” bucks the trend, and how beautiful it sounds! More of the like would have been appreciated with open arms (and ears); the whole arrangement is magical. Other than which, Carpenter leaves it pretty much to her beautifully crafted lyrics to tell her story, and with the likes of “This Is Love” weave a spell few others are capable and the pretty “Jericho” sounding as delicate as a flower in full bloom her tendency to drift is highlighted. Likewise could be said, in part of “The Calling” as she shares her wisdom, and talking of which I was thrilled to once again hear one of the first song I heard by MCC. I am talking “This Shirt”; her eye for detail hasn’t been bettered. Even some of the original versions directness has been stripped back and replaced with a more artful approach that is another matter. As for “Sometimes Just The Sky”, it was inspired by something in an interview she read with Patti Smith, and fits the set like the proverbial glove. One song that most certainly benefits on given a new production is “One Small Heart”; warmed in organ, fiddle, pedal steel and strong, relentless rhythm it has much to admire as she speaks of no set directions and no short cuts (as the thrill of the unknown rears as no doubt Carpenter's has and will if she allows keep on doing so).     

Maurice Hope     

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April 2018

Courtney Marie Andrews
100 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
Mary Gauthier
59 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
Caleb Caudle
49 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
Western Centuries
48 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
Vivian Leva
44 pts.
Time is Everything
Free Dirt Records
Ed Romanoff
42 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
Grant Peeples
41 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Joan Baez
32 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
29 pts.
Texas, etc...
Sam Morrow
29 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
Chris Smither
27 pts.
Call Me Lucky
Signature Sounds
Michael McDermott
26 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
John Prine
24 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
Mary Chapin Carpenter
23 pts.
Sometimes Just The Sky
Lambent Light Records
Dean Owens
22 pts.
Southern Wind
At The Helm
6 String Drag
21 pts.
Top of The World
Schoolkids Records
Haley Heynderickx
21 pts.
I Need To Start A Garden
Mama Bird Recordings
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
21 pts.
Tearing At The Seams
Stax Records
Abe Partridge
20 pts.
Cotton Fields And Blood For Days
Skate Mountain
Adam James Sorensen
20 pts.
Dust Cloud Refrain
Continental Song City
Ben Reel
20 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
Chip Taylor
20 pts.
Fix Your Words
Train Wreck Records
Kesia Nagata
20 pts.
Looking For Horses
Caramal Productions
Sheesham & Lotus & 'Son
20 pts.
Clear The Table
SepiaPhone Records
18 pts.
Lord of the Desert
Okehdokee Records
Marlon Williams
18 pts.
Make Way for Love
Dead Oceans

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