Friday, 19 October 2018

Mary Chapin Carpenter - The Age Of Miracles (2010)




Released April 2010

I have written extensively about Mary Chapin Carpenter in my various reviews of her albums, so at the risk of repeating myself I will briefly say that I admire her work immensely. I consider her to be a singer-songwriter of the highest quality, one of the very best. She is wise, clever, sensitive, expressive, emotive and one thing I really like about her is she grows old with me, the two of us having been born in the same year, 1958. The feelings and emotions she expresses in each album are “age appropriate”.

This album is a little less “new country rock” than parts of “The Calling” were. There are fewer riffs and more acoustic rhythms, but the drums are still solid, the bass resonant and the piano melodious, as always.

“We Traveled So Far” and “Zephyr” are both mid-pace, acoustic but bassy ballads with Mary on reflective form, lyrically, and her confident, steady, mature voice always in control. Both are evocative, melodious songs. “I Put My Ring Back On” is a short, vibrant riffy and upbeat number that harks back to the sort of material she did a lot of in the mid-nineties. “Holding Up The Sky” is a gentle, solemn ballad featuring some quality, melodic guitar and another thoughtful vocal. The whole album’s approach is one of subtlety and sensitivity, of maturity and understanding.

“4 June 1989” is an evocative song about the Tianenmen Square protests in China sung from the point of view of a young soldier charged with clearing the protesters. “I Was A Bird” is another gentle melody as indeed is the beautiful, haunting “Mrs Hemingway”, a lovely narrative tale about the author’s wife. It is most atmospheric with its lyrics about sailors in bars and living in Parisian garrets.

“I Have A Need For Solitude” is a rumbling slow burner, with more thoughtful lyrics plus some great background guitar, and “What You Look For” is another throwback to the country rock sound of the mid-nineties. These musical pieces of nostalgia are pretty rare, though, and this album will not resonate much with the fans from the “Down At The Twist And Shout” days. This is a mature album by a mature artist. This is perfectly reflected in the enigmatic, tender “Iceland”.

“The Age Of Miracles” has a committed-sounding MCC singing hopefully and knowingly over one of those classic MCC slow guitar and piano-driven tunes. “The Way I Feel” is a rockier, vibrant number upon which to end what is quite a low-key, reflective album.

B-

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