mon 15/07/2024

CD: Mary Chapin Carpenter - Ashes and Roses | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mary Chapin Carpenter - Ashes and Roses

CD: Mary Chapin Carpenter - Ashes and Roses

Unlucky in love, folky feminist submits 13 songs to feel down to

Mary Chapin Carpenter surveys the post-nuclear wasteland of singledom

Twenty years ago Mary Chapin Carpenter used to sing about loving and losing, but also about lusting. Even her ballads went at a bullish lick. The essence of what she had to say was distilled in “He Thinks He'll Keep Her”, which captured the emotions of a 35-year-old woman at the moment she realises her marriage is a dead duck. Here was a Nashville grandee who, rather than standing by her man, stood up for herself.

Her feminist folk preeminence has helped Carpenter to sales of 12 million albums.

Ruined romance is still on the agenda in Ashes and Roses, but this time Carpenter is nowhere near the driving seat. In “Transcendental Union” which opens the 13-song set, she files through an airport in profound solitude. Things don’t look up as song after song finds her in a post-nuclear wasteland of singledom after a break-up, attempting to sift through the rubble for some sense of self. In “What to Keep and What to Throw Away” and “Chasing What’s Already Gone”, all she sees is evidence of abandonment: a hook where a jacket once hung, an old scribbled note. You get the picture. The question is, does the yearning for a lost past and a more hopeful future bring the best out of Carpenter?

Melodically, not so much. Although quietness also suits the timbre of Carpenter’s deep alto voice, several tunes succumb to the lure of the dying fall, which may match the mood but keeps variety at arm’s length. Tempo wise, she’s obviously not feeling upbeat. Lyrically it is a more intriguing concoction. Real pain has encouraged Carpenter, like an Inuit describing snow, to find 13 ways of mapping loneliness. “Fading Away” and “Jericho”, which play out the album, are the collection's most touching, brittle contemplations of grief. These are songs to feel down to.

Listen to 'Jericho'

Real pain has encouraged her, like an Inuit describing snow, to find 13 ways of mapping loneliness


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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Many artists who have experienced heartache, loss and tragedy can harness their emotions through their art and write thought-evoking, heart-achingly beautiful, soulful music. "Ashes and Roses" is the embodiment of Mary Chapin Carpenter's heart and soul, a real gift to her audience. When an artist bares his/her soul revealing all that heartache, pain and suffering, it's a beautiful thing albeit painful for both the artist and the listener. Mary Chapin gives hope to all in despair, there's light at the end of the tunnel, this is life, these things happen, but you've got to keep goin' on. I wouldn't say these "are songs to feel down to", rather these are songs that reach in to our psyche and our being and evoke our emotions, our empathy, our own state of grace. Ashes and Roses truly is Mary Chapin's most profound, soulful album which may not have the danceability factor, but if you want meaningful, soulful music written in all earnestness with poetic, all-revealing lyrics, this is the album to listen to.

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