Thursday, 26 July 2018

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Shooting Straight In The Dark (1990)


Released October 1990

You know, I would love to have Mary Chapin Carpenter round for dinner. She would be great company - sensitive, funny, observant, nostalgic, just like her albums, in fact. This one was the one before her big breakthrough album, “Come On Come On”, but it is just as good. To be honest it could do with a remastering as you have to turn the sound up on it a bit, and it is just a little muffled in places, but no real matter, as Mary’s voice is crystal clear and her and her band’s musicianship is excellent always. This is only a slight gripe though, very slight indeed.


1. Going Out Tonight
2. Right Now
3. The More Things Change
4. When She's Gone
5. Middle Ground
6. Can't Take Love For Granted
7. Down At The Twist And Shout
8. Halley Came To Jackson
9. What You Didn't Say
10. You Win Again
11. The Moon And St. Christopher

My favourite on here is “Middle Ground”, which tells of a career-obsessed thirty something woman who has had no time for successful relationships.

"....all her single friends are men
She thinks married girls are so damn boring..."

It is a kind of opposite partner to the next album’s “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”, but featuring a different type of woman, but both characters are similarly frustrated and unfulfilled. Mary does these sad tales so well, and always against a supremely melodic, catchy backing. Then there is the Cajun/Zydeco good time romp of “Down At The Twist And Shout” which is irresistibly toe-tapping. Check out the video to this which has a young Mary manically dancing throughout, something surprisingly to see in that she has often appeared a bit gauche and shy on stage. Here she is giving it all, and some. She doesn’t keep still for a second.

The apparently autobiographical solid country rock of “Can’t Take Love For Granted” is about a guy who did her bad and there is some folky nostalgia of “Halley Came To Jackson” (about Halley’s comet which was seen in 1910). The albums ends with the simply beautiful, wistful and evocative “The Moon And St Christopher”. This is one of Mary’s loveliest songs. Full of heartbreak but hope at the same time. You can’t go far wrong with this bunch of songs. Top quality. Mary's knack for finding a killer lyric is something that has always amazed me. She is one of the best singer/songwriters around. No question.

All the others are fine too, to be honest, “Going Out Tonight” is an upbeat, thumping “I’m gonna do what the hell I like” song and “Right Now” is a slice of lively country fun. The plaintive, emotional "What You Didn't Say" is just gorgeous. Mary never fails to move me. As she has aged, Mary has become more “age appropriate” and reflective, but here she was younger and livelier, but not without that wise, world-weariness that has always been so appealing about her.

Who else could write

"....morning comes on an old cat's paws
And when the sun hits the walls
The light's as bright as it ever was....".


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