Found out today that Mary Chapin Carpenter has a new album coming out in May. This is good news, as long time readers and those that know me well know that Mary Chapin Carpenter had a profound and lasting effect on college Dan. Even though her last album of new material left me a little bit cold because it was ballad after ballad after ballad, I still was filled with the old feeling of anticipation, thinking that perhaps this time, she will not take herself too seriously. Turns out that the opening track, “Something Tamed Something Wild” is streaming at Rolling Stone, and while it’s not the barn-burner that “On With The Song” was, it’s a plucky little song that is decidedly in second gear. If I could embed it here, I totally would, but I guess Rolling Stone gets dibs.
This is a huge relief for me. It killed me to not really like Carpenter’s last album. I saw her live last year and I have to say, it was the only concert I saw last year that left me a little bit disappointed. When I initially saw the set list, I was super excited because it was filled with all of her best known songs, along with some great album tracks. The problem was, it was an acoustic set and pretty much every song was done in a slowed-down version. Even a great upbeat track like “Passionate Kisses” was turned into a dirge. I took my daughter to that show, and it was kind of her introduction to Carpenter. I’m so sad that she’ll always think of Carpenter as the woman who “put on that boring concert” than the talented singer-songwriter that she is. While I was felt honored to be in the presence of a woman whose music has touched my life so deeply, it was hard to not want a little bit more pep in the performance.
I understand why she has been introspective and somber – her last album was written in the aftermath of surviving a pulmonary embolism and a divorce – but for the first time in my long relationship with her music, I just didn’t connect. I’ve always loved her introspection, but she has this uncanny ability to marry that introspection with a killer hook. I’m not saying she makes it fun to feel sad, but she makes looking inward not the chore that it might otherwise be. That’s what drew me to her music in the first place, and thankfully, with “Something Tamed Something Wild” she’s managed to accomplish just that once again.
Carpenter soundtracked those lonely, depressed, and anxious years like no other artist – perhaps because she gave them a voice when I was unable to do so. No artist takes me back to that time in quite the same way that Carpenter does. You’d think someone so closely associated with feeling lousy would be someone I would never want to hear again, but you’d be wrong. Her songs were probably the only thing that kept me sane.
Which is why I took the plunge and preordered the album on vinyl. Of course, I would have done that anyway, but I splurged and ordered an autographed copy. The price is steep, but that’s not even close to the most I’ve spent on a record.
It’ll ship on June 1, 2016 and should arrive just in time for my birthday. I’m calling it my birthday present to myself. It feels appropriate.