Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Dirt And The Stars: Album Review

Recorded entirely live, the new album from Mary Chapin Carpenter finds the 5-time GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter pondering life’s intimate, personal moments and exploring its most universally challenging questions

Release Date: 5th August 2020

Label: Lambent Light Records

Format: CD / DL

Written at a Virginian farmhouse and recorded in Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios in Bath the atmosphere a for quality music is set. This is exactly what you get. 

Mary Chapin Carpenter pours out her personal thoughts and feelings without ‘icky sentimentality’ as can often be pervaded in the country genre and are delivered with honesty and in a manner we can identify with. The hits this side of the water may not be prolific since the splendid ‘Passionate Kisses’  but as we know quality lasts and so has Mary Chapin Carpenter’s longevity. Top quality artists don’t need to over-produce their music to grab our attention and she demonstrates expertly what to leave in and leave out with these songs. Songwriting par excellence.

The opener Farther Along And Further In has a very subtle drum, steel guitar and keyboard accompaniment to beautifully played picked guitar and a pleasant melody, and although this gentle song slips along smoothly I’ll guarantee by the end you’ll be foot tapping and you won’t even know it.  

Feet will continue moving in It’s OK To Be Sad. A philosophical look at how coming to terms with the bad feelings in life helps overcome them till the good times come back, succinctly said in lyrics “The cracks beginning to spread is the way you break open. ” 

The tempo slows in All Broken Hearts Break Differently and Old D 35, she has clearly felt the pain of lost love but this is all part of finding the one that will last forever.  It’s refreshing to hear these emotions expressed without mournful screeching and wailing but in gentle persuasive tones.

American Stooge’s rocky rhythms seem to be poking the finger mockingly at the All American boy, who hypocritically follows the ‘American Way’  to the detriment of the nation. We have enough experience of those who are leading us down a  shaky path so we can empathise here, then she offers the remedy and a better way in finding true contentment in our heart, that’s ‘ Where the Beauty Is. ’

Her insightful observations, borne from her own experiences, are quoted in Asking For A Friend, showing she has been around the block emotionally and she has ‘musically’ too, with great expertise she selects exactly the right musical delivery for each of her intimate messages.

Some retrospective albums seem to focus on the gloom of misfortune with dour sad songs but rather than musically dwell on the melancholic  Mary Chapin Carpenter always offers a positive outlook.  Just to emphasise that something good is always round the corner, she saves the best till last as the final slowburn track which concludes with a magnificent guitar solo bringing the album to a superb climax.

Mary Chapin Carpenter admits freely that she never sugar coats her songs and musically and in life you are never too old to learn either from mistakes or to look at life afresh. An outlook she and adheres to and is concisely and intuitively revealed on this moving, exceptional piece of work.

Listen to Between The Dirt And The Stars here:

Mary Chapin Carpenter online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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1 reply »

  1. American Stooge was written about US Senator Lindsey Graham and Old D-35 was written to her longtime band member and friend John Jennings who passed away a few years ago. Thank you for the nice words regarding the new album.

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