I must go on record as saying I absolutely adore Mary Chapin Carpenter. I’m stuck in a never-ending cycle of her songs on both my iTunes and my iPod. I have a tendency to forget about Mary Chapin Carpenter every now and again, and every time I remember her and go back to listening to her music, it’s like reuniting with an old friend. An old friend who is part melancholy, part introspective, but completely and utterly amazing. I sometimes wish I knew her personally, but, like most celebrities, I prefer to keep my distance from them to preserve my idealization.
(I say that like I have a some kind of choice in the matter or something.)
I started listening to her music in the winter of 1993. I picked up Shooting Straight in the Dark at Christmas that year. Before long, I’d picked up every single one of her CDs. I was getting into her music around the time of Come On, Come On which I refer to as the Rhythm Nation of country music as it spun off something like 7 singles which was pretty much unheard of from any genre of music at that point since singles were being phased out slowly but surely. And truly, Come On, Come On is probably one of her best CDs. I’ve really been into the song “I Am A Town” these days. And this is really weird because it was always the one song I skipped when I listened to the CD. It was too slow, too ponderous, and I just didn’t relate to the material at all. Heidi always liked it because she said it reminded her of Bellevue, the closest thing to a home town she has. I think the reason I didn’t get it was because I was from a town that was just a little bit too big to be considered a “small town” so I didn’t really get the whole “last gas for an hour if you’re going 25” or at least didn’t want to. But the other morning I was getting ready and I was listening to the song, and I just stood there and listened to it and it finally, after 12+ years really connected with me. It’s gorgeous and poignant and captures something that’s disappearing from the American landscape.
I almost gave up on Chapin after a couple of less-than-stellar CDs in the late 90s/early 2000s. But then she totally redeemed herself in my mind with her fan-fucking-tastic Between Here and Gone. It ranks up there with Come On, Come On in my mind as far as Chapin greatness.
I think that I started listening to Chapin at a very critical point in my life – a time when I was in school and feeling very alone and misunderstood. I remember being very much a four (even though I didn’t know what a four was back then) and feeling so different from everyone else in the world. And I heard these sentiments echoed in Chapin’s music. There are two things I remember vivdly from that time in my life — I remember thinking about how MCC could be singing the songs of my life if only she weren’t female, and that one review said “Mary Chapin Carpenter must be hell in a relationship – always wondering how things are going” and I thought that described me to a tee. In many respects, I’ve matured with her. She commented that the songs on Between Here and Gone could only have been written by her 45-year old self, and my 34-year old self understands that.
I think, in many respects, my admiration for Casey Stratton mirrors that of Carpenter. His music had a similar effect on me when I discovered him a couple years back. I know that he’s more closely compared to Tori Amos, but for me, he’ll always remind me just a little bit of Mary Chapin Carpenter.
And all I know is there’s not enough Stones In The Road on my iPod, so that’s getting imported tonight.