Friday, 19 October 2018

Mary Chapin Carpenter - The Calling (2006)




Released March 2007

Musically, Mary Chapin Carpenter embraces contemporary “new Nashville” somewhat on this initially muscular album. It is full of solid, powerful, mid-pace rock ballads with the drums and the bass turned up considerably. Lyrically, it is still the same reassuring, wise, sage Mary, however. As I mature through the years, she does too (we are the same age). She has a remarkable way of standing apart from the world and offering  words of wisdom from an almost deified position (for me anyway). She is my oracle. Listening to an MCC an album is an emotional journey. You can’t just put it on in the background. I feel I have been put through thewinfer by the end of the session. I feel it has been cathartic, too, however. Incredibly so.

The title track is a dignified, mid-pace and powerful ballad with Mary’s voice on fine evocative and righteous-sounding form. It rocks. So too, does the pulsating “We’re All Right”. Both these tracks are packed full of those killer hooks she seems to be able to sum up at will.

She can also write a bucolic, mournful heartbreaker too. “Twilight” is defintely one of those, full of magical images about “walking though the gloaming at eventide”. “Twilight” is almost used metaphorically to describe our ageing. MCC has such a marvellous understanding of human life and our fragile existence. I find listening to any of her songs both life-affirming and mournfully philosophical at the same time. The full-bodied rock sound is back on the thumping, riffy but melodic “It Must Have Happened”. “On And On It Goes” is one of those sumptuous slow ballads she does so effortlessly.  It has a beautiful bass line underpinning it.

“Your Life Story” is an upbeat number with a trademark MCC riff circa “Come On Come On” and Mary singing wryly about life, ageing and the like in the way she does that sounds knowing, experienced and wise, even if she was singing her shopping list. “Houston” is an MCC classic - atmospheric and deeply moving. I can’t get enough of this song. “Leaving Song” is in the same vein. She is unique in producing songs like this. Wonderful.

“On With The Show” is a rousing anti-nationalist, anti-racist anthem written in tribute to The Dixie Chicks who dared to speak out against such things. This song is more that just that. These days it is positively essential. “This isn’t for you and you know who you are…” Mary sings. God bless her. we need more of her like around.

“Closer And Closer Apart” is a plaintive, piano, bass and vocal haunting ballad. Simply beautiful. As we reach the end of the album, the ambience has turned sadder, more reflective, as if the angry, tubthumping of “On With The Show” had made Mary quieter, taking stock of things. “Here I Am” is another solemn, serious and meaningful song. “Why Shouldn’t We” has a real Springsteen-esque feel in its lyrical refrain. It is magnificently proud in a mature and dignified way. Packed full of zeal and evangelical conviction. “Bright Morning Star” is a low-key, tender song to see out this supremely sensitive piece of work. I am not an openly religious man. For me, listening to songs like these are as close as I get to a state of grace.

All these songs come straight from Mary Chapin Carpenter’s heart, from her very DNA. Listening to this is like a sermon. It is almost spiritual in its effect.

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