I’ve been trying to think of a good venue for doing a more personal perspective on music, and the recent addition of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s State of the Heart to my iTunes gives me a good jumping-off point. Even though I haven’t even listened to the full thing start to finish, it’s already triggered several songs in my head, and where I was at when I first heard them.
MCC was introduced to me by a former art teacher who I was house-sitting for the summer of 1989. She was such a big supporter of me in junior high when I didn’t have a lot of supporters, and I can still hear her voice in my head encouraging me to approach things from my perspective, rather than from what I thought others wanted to see/hear. We lost touch when my family moved to a different part of town, but somehow we reconnected after I graduated from high school.
Carpenter has had a pretty good career for a country artist, even grazing some pop charts in the US and UK with songs like “Passionate Kisses” and “Shut Up and Kiss Me”, but what I love about Mary-Chapin is that her music has never felt like a sell-out or a trend-chaser. The music that she composes and plays is genuine and raw, and almost completely self-written. My favorite song on State is “This Shirt”, which tells the tale of an ended relationship through the perspective of a shared shirt.
This shirt was the one I lent you
And when you gave it back
There was a rip inside the sleeve
Where you rolled your cigarettes
It was the place I put my heart
Now look at where you put a tear
I forgave your thoughtlessness
But not the boy who put it there
Mary-Chapin hasn’t had a hit in ten years, but she’s still making great music, including The Calling, which came out in 2007 and made my best-of list for that year. She even took the holiday plunge and released a Christmas album called Come Darkness, Come Light that has a very cool mellow-December vibe to it. For the peak of her career, check out “Come On Come On”, which was the height of her mainstream success.