Music Reviews
Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter

The Calling

Zoë/Rounder Records

Mary Chapin Carpenter is an artist who has found her true voice as her career has progressed. She’s always been an exceptionally talented songwriter, but as her desire to be part of the Nashville machine has decreased, it seems her writing has only improved, as demonstrated by her most recent releases, Time* Sex* Love* and 2004’s Between Here and Gone.

The Calling –Carpenter’s first record for the Zoë/Rounder label– carries on where those two records left off and finds her at her contemplative and reflective best, inspired by both the current political climate and her recent marriage.

Whereas the idealistic “Why Shouldn’t We” urges the listener to engage politically and peacefully to strive for a better world, the title track probes the issue of “a calling” with Carpenter’s customary intelligence and resonance. Elsewhere, the poignant “Houston” vividly narrates one heartbreaking story from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the uptempo “On With the Song” is a biting social commentary of a vision of America that Carpenter strongly opposes.

It’s bold yet satisfying territory for Carpenter’s writing to explore, but the beautiful acoustics of the profound “On and On It Goes” and the graceful peacefulness of the stunning “Twilight” return her to the familiar theme of the fundamental beauty of the most simplistic things in life.

“It Must Have Happened” chronicles her emergence from a dark period of loneliness and the unbridled joy of a loving relationship, but the highlight of a record littered with superb examples of a songwriter’s craft is the understated brilliance of “Here I Am;” a comforting few moments of serenity and security against the backdrop of the threatening and uncertain world to which Carpenter has previously referred.

The Calling is a triumph on every level, and may just be the most complete collection of her remarkable body of work.

Mary Chapin Carpenter:

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