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.
Nice perspective. You need to do more of these.
I do like “I Feel Lucky” but have not had much exposure to her, and I think part of that was on purpose, as she was a country artist, and I wasn’t having any of that back in the day.
I agree with Yuri about welcoming more posts putting your relationship with an album or songs in a personal context.
Those lines you quoted show what an amazing lyricist she is–she can find those little details that get to you and narrate a story (even if it’s just an emotional story and not a regular plot-oriented one) in a way very few people can. There’s something about “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” that tugs harder on my heartstrings more than almost any other song. The melodies are always there, and the singing–goes without saying.
You’ve reminded me I really need to try her studio albums.
The funniest part about you not liking her for being country is that there are people in country who don’t like her because she’s not country enough. She’s a bit of an outcast at the moment, not really fitting into any full-fledged genre.
Thanks for the encouragement. I have so many ties to different songs and albums that it seems a shame not to document them at some point.
Well, that was then because obviously I do like some country songs and artists now. For me, they have to be at least a bit pop for me to even give them notice.
Good point about not being country enough. The record buying public is so fickle!
Yuri, don’t know if you’ve ever heard “Passionate Kisses”, but I bet that would be to your liking.