Mary Chapin Carpenter The Calling

Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 11th release takes a tack that only a seasoned artist with total confidence and control can — saying what she actually thinks. No filtering, no fear, this is a reaction to life in America in an age when things are so competitive and conflicted that it’s hard to know even where to begin. To that end, Carpenter takes the stage best for her emotive songwriting, rather than necessarily the execution thereof — the emergence of an occasionally foggy affectation in her voice (most noticeably in "Twilight”) is a little disconcerting. But it’d be hard to imagine these pained but pleasurable songs sounding any other way than with her brushed steel tones and the warble of guitar providing sparkling counterpoint. Some of the songs are a little less suavely poetic and referential than others — "On With The Song” is an extraordinarily blatant (but no less accurate) slamming of the American cultural climate post-Dixie Chicks not-playing-nice incident. Others take on slightly less charged topics with a more delicate touch. "Closer and Closer Apart” is a prayer to the slow loss of a love, the deep pain of watching it fade. "Houston,” a goodbye to New Orleans in the post-Katrina exodus, uses a vaguely gospel, repetitive phrase to lend gravity and grace to a subject that seems too painful to even touch. (Zoë)