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MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER –SOMETIMES JUST THE SKY (Thirty Tigers)

www.thirtytigers.com

www.marychapincarpenter.com

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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July 2018
1
American Aquarium
93 pts.
Things Change
New West
BK,TJ,JB
2
Gretchen Peters
56 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
ML,GF
3
Patrick Sweany
51 pts.
Ancient Noise
Nine Mile Records
FC,RK,BM,CVL,TK
4
Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore
47 pts.
Downey To Lubbock
Yep Roc
SP,JBO,JJC
5
Melissa Carper & Rebecca Patek
34 pts.
Brand New Old-Time Songs
Independent
 
6
Ry Cooder
33 pts.
The Prodigal Son
Perro Verde Records
DH
7
Jenny van West
32 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
RST,NC
8
Brooks Williams
30 pts.
Lucky Star
Red Guitar Blue Music
 
9
Levi Parham
29 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
 
10
I See Hawks in LA
26 pts.
Live and Never Learn
Western Seed Records
WR
11
Rory Block
25 pts.
A Woman's Soul
Stoneyplain Records
MB,AL
12
Phil Cook
24 pts.
People Are My Drug
Thirty Tigers
LK,JD
13
Mike Aiken
23 pts.
Wayward Troubadour
Northwind Records
BP
14
Karen Jonas
22 pts.
Butter
Independent
HVB
15
Buckley
21 pts.
Las Cruzes
Rum Bar Records
 
 
John Prine
21 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
 
17
Neko Case
20 pts.
Hell-on
Anti Epitha
MW
 
Sam Lewis
20 pts.
Loversity
Loversity Records
HDB
 
Verbraak Van Bijnen
20 pts.
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CRS
HH,TV
20
Jesse Dayton
19 pts.
The Outsider
Blue Elan
LM,SZ
21
Dieter van der Westen Band
18 pts.
Me and You
Independent
 
 
Hadley McCall Thackston
18 pts.
Hadley McCall Thackston
Wolfe Island Records
CRS
 
Willie Nelson
18 pts.
Last Man Standing
Legacy
 
24
Carter Sampson
17 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
 
Tami Neilson
17 pts.
SassaFrass!
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