Thursday, 16 August 2018

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Sometimes Just The Sky (2018)


Released March 2018

Recorded in Wiltshire

Mary Chapin Carpenter has decided, on this album, to revisit some of her old songs, as she turns sixty. And why not? I had a bit of trepidation about the project, however, but I needn’t have worried. Mary never lets me down.


1. Heroes And Heroines
2. What Does It Mean To Travel
3. I Have A Need For Solitude
4. One Small Heart
5. The Moon And St. Christopher
6. Superman
7. Naked To The Eye
8. Rhythm Of The Blues
9. This Is Love
10. Jericho
11. The Calling
12. This Shirt
13. Sometimes Just The Sky

"One Small Heart” now has a great swirling organ sound and crashing guitars that enhances it considerably from its starker original. “Heroes and Heroines”, originally from her debut album all those year ago, now has a marvellous big, pounding drum sound. “What does It Mean To Travel” and “I Have A Need For Solitude” are not significantly different - still quietly acoustic and tender. The same applies to “Jericho”. All are beautifully sung here, though.

“The Moon And St Christopher” has another bigger, fuller drum sound, more haunting orchestration and Mary’s voice even more mournful and evocative. Simply beautiful. I have always really loved this song so much. Thankfully, I still love this version. It would have been a shame if it had spoilt it.

“Superman” is a lovely, atmospheric slow new new song, with a rich, deep drum in the background and an ethereal, whispered vocal. The other new track, “Sometimes Just The Sky” is a quiet, thoughtful ballad, very typical of her later work. The slightly more lively “Naked To The Eye” is given a folky, country violin makeover and his a real Springsteen-esque feel to its chorus.

“Rhythm Of The Blues” is even slower than its original, with a deeper, more solid drum sound once more and Mary’s voice is now no longer that of the spokeswoman for all thirty-somethings that she was when she wrote the song. She is now a grand old lady, full of wisdom and comfort. But she’s still our grand old lady.

“This Is Love” now has a shuffling, percussive slowed-down beat, with a fetching, emotive violin and Mary’s voice is gruffer, but more world-weary, less vibrant or triumphant than the original. This is a voice of sixty years’ experience. Just lovely - it brings tears to my eyes. “The Calling” is powerful, strident and confident - full of melodic violin, sharp guitar and pumping drums. Mary’s voice is just gorgeous. It always has been, and nothing has changed, save an octave or so deeper, actually making her sound more profound.

“This Shirt” is another of my all-time favourites. Again, it is given a fuller, firmer backing, augmented by a beautiful folky violin. It still moves me tremendously. I know Mary’s old shirt as well as I know my own. She’s been with me for thirty years too.


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