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Mary Chapin Carpenter

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Mary Chapin Carpenter was part of a small movement of folk-influenced country singer/songwriters of the late '80s. Although many of these performers never achieved commercial success, Carpenter was able to channel her anti-Nashville approach into chart success and industry awards by the early '90s. Carpenter was born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, the daughter of a Life magazine executive; she spent two years of her childhood in Japan, where her father was launching the Asian edition of Life. Her mother had begun to play guitar during the folk explosion of the early '60s, and she gave her daughter a guitar when Mary became interested in music as a child. Carpenter played music during her high-school years, but she didn't actively pursue it as a career. In 1974 her family moved to Washington, D.C., where she became involved in the city's folk music scene. After graduating from high school in the mid-'70s, she spent a year traveling Europe; when she was finished, she enrolled at Brown University, where she was an American civilization major. Following her college graduation, she became deeply involved in the Washington-area folk scene, performing a mixture of originals, contemporary singer/songwriter material, and pop covers. Carpenter met guitarist John Jennings during the early '80s and the pair began performing together. They eventually made a demo tape of their songs, which they sold at their concerts. The tape wound up at Columbia Records, and the label offered Carpenter an audition. By early 1987, Columbia had signed her as a recording artist, and her first album, Hometown Girl, was released that year. Hometown Girl and its follow-up, State of the Heart (1989), earned her a dedicated cult following, as well as two Top Ten singles, "Never Had It So Good" and "Quittin' Time." Country radio was hesitant to play her soft, folky, feminist material, but she received good reviews and airplay on more progressive country stations, as well as college radio. Shooting Straight in the Dark, released in 1990, managed to break down a lot of the barriers that stood in her way. "Down at the Twist and Shout" became a number two single and the album sold well, setting the stage for her breakthrough album, 1992's Come on Come On. Come on Come On signaled a slight change in direction for Carpenter -- although there were still folk songs, she felt freer to loosen up on honky tonk and country-rock songs, which resulted in several hit singles. Two of the singles from the album -- "I Feel Lucky" and "Passionate Kisses" -- hit number four, and "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" hit number two on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Come on Come On would eventually sell over two million copies. Her fifth album, Stones in the Road, released in 1994, concentrated on the folkier material, but it was still a major success, selling over a million copies within its first six months of release. The album's lead single, "Shut Up and Kiss Me," became Carpenter's first song to hit number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Performance. Her follow-up, 1996's Place in the World, also performed well, hitting number three on the country albums chart and reaching the Top 20 on the Billboard 200. In 2001, Carpenter returned with her seventh studio album, Time* Sex* Love*. Recorded in London at famed Beatles producer Sir George Martin's Air Studios, the album found Carpenter departing somewhat from her country-inflected sound and ruminating on relationships and career from a distinctly middle-aged perspective. Carpenter's tenth album, 2004's Between Here and Gone, was produced in Nashville with longtime associates pianist Matt Rollings and guitarist John Jennings. The album was a somewhat introspective affair that revealed Carpenter still grappling with the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, as well as the death of fellow singer/songwriter Dave Carter, who inspired the title track. In 2007, Carpenter delivered The Calling, her first album for Zoë Records after parting ways with Columbia. Co-produced by Carpenter and Rollings, The Calling hit number ten on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. A year later, Zoë also released a holiday album from Carpenter, Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas. A new studio album, The Age of Miracles, appeared early in 2010 and reached number one on the Billboard Folk Albums chart. Carpenter followed it in the summer of 2012 with Ashes and Roses, an entirely self-penned collection that she co-produced with Rollings. In 2013, she teamed with Grammy-winning arranger Vince Mendoza to create an orchestral album of songs from her existing catalog. Songs from the Movie was released in January of 2014 and celebrated with a performance of the set in its entirety with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the Celtic Connections Festival in the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland on January 24. Carpenter retreated to write immediately thereafter. In the spring of 2015, she entered the studio with producer Dave Cobb (who also played guitars and Mellotron during the sessions) and a small group of musicians and worked through the summer. The finished album, entitled The Things That We Are Made Of (on her own Lambent Light label via Thirty Tigers), was prefaced by three tracks: "Something Tamed Something Wild," "What Does It Mean to Travel," and "Map of My Heart," in December. The full-length was released in May 2016. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Albums by
Mary Chapin Carpenter

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    13 songs

    On Air

    The Things That We Are Made Of

    1 song

    On Air

    The Blue Distance

    10 songs

    On Air

    Songs from the Movie

    13 songs

    On Air

    Ashes and Roses

    12 songs

    On Air

    The Age of Miracles

    12 songs

    On Air

    Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas

    15 songs

    On Air

    Playlist: The Very Best of Mary Chapin Carpenter

    13 songs

    On Air

    The Calling

    12 songs

    On Air

    Between Here and Gone

    15 songs

    On Air

    Time* Sex* Love*

    12 songs

    On Air

    A Place in the World

    13 songs

    On Air

    Stones in the Road

    12 songs

    On Air

    Come on Come On

    11 songs

    On Air

    Shooting Straight in the Dark

    10 songs

    On Air

    Hometown Girl

    11 songs

    On Air

    State of the Heart

    1 song

    On Air

    What Does It Mean to Travel

    1 song

    On Air

    Map of My Heart

    1 song

    On Air

    Something Tamed Something Wild

    1 song

    On Air

    Beautiful Racket

    1 song

    On Air

    What Would You Say To Me

    16 songs

    On Air

    The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter

    17 songs

    On Air

    Party Doll and Other Favorites

    11 songs

    On Air

    Things That We Are Made Of [LP]

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Top Songs by
Mary Chapin Carpenter

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   Shut Up and Kiss Me
  3.   Down at the Twist and Shout by Beausoleil
  4.   Passionate Kisses
  5.   Not Too Much to Ask
  6.   Down at the Twist and Shout
  7.   I Feel Lucky
  8.   He Thinks He'll Keep Her
  9.   Quittin' Time
  10.   Dreamland
  11.   Never Had It So Good
  12.   The Age of Miracles
  13.   Stones in the Road
  14.   Someone Else's Prayer
  15.   The Swords We Carried
  16.   4 June 1989
  17.   The End of My Pirate Days
  18.   Learning the World
  19.   What to Keep and What to Throw Away
  20.   I Have a Need for Solitude
  21.   The Dreaming Road
  22.   Map of My Heart
  23.   I Put My Ring Back On
  24.   We Traveled So Far
  25.   You Win Again
  26. See All Songs

Stations & Shows Featuring
Mary Chapin Carpenter

    On Air

    77 Greatest Country Duets

    On Air

    Soothing Lullabies

    On Air

    Ladies of Country

    On Air

    '90s Country

    On Air

    Country Hits

    On Air

    She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy

    On Air

    The Country Vault

    On Air

    Folk

    On Air

    Americana

    On Air

    Classic Country

    On Air

    Eclectic Rock


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