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Music that 'happily transcends boundaries'

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter will bring her folk-influenced music to The Maryland Theatre on Friday

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter will bring her folk-influenced music to The Maryland Theatre on Friday

May 20, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Mary Chapin Carpenter will be at The Maryland Theatre on Friday night.

The concert is one of 40 she'll perform in support of her latest album, "Between Here and Gone," released last month.

Carpenter wrote all 12 songs, and the CD is the first she's recorded in Nashville, Tenn., something that strikes her as ironic, since she's been on the Sony Nashville label for years.

Although Carpenter's five Grammy Awards have been in the country genre, her music doesn't fit neatly in that pigeonhole. The folk influences and approach are ever present. The Boston Globe called her music "a unique hybrid ... a mix that happily transcends boundaries."

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The new recording is a quintessential Mary Chapin Carpenter mix, songs ranging from personal to the universal. She's described the thoughtful "Girls Like Me" as "very autobiographical." There's "Goodnight America," a fond rhythm-of-the-road lullaby tour of cities she's visited.

She sings of the tragedy of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York in "Grand Central Station," a song inspired by the story of an ironworker who was one of the first on the scene. Prompted by the life force he felt at the site, he made a pilgrimage to the starry-domed terminal so the souls of departed could follow him there and on to their trains home.

While Carpenter can identify the source of that song, she said she generally doesn't know from where her compositions come.

"Between Here and Gone" includes themes of seeking, finding the best in ourselves, rising above, Carpenter said in a phone interview from her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Central Virginia. Nearly two years ago, Carpenter married Tim Smith and moved after living in the Washington, D.C., area for more than 20 years.

Everyone asks her how marriage has changed her work, Carpenter said with a laugh, as if "I'm too busy kissing my husband" to write and perform.

"I feel like I have a very rich artistic life," she said. But she did acknowledge not writing so many heartbreak songs. "I'm not there now."

Neither is Carpenter on the road as much as she used to be - which was often.

"I reassessed just about everything," she said, adding she decided she didn't want to spend all of her time touring anymore.

She wanted balance.

"I'm very fortunate that I can make these choices," she said.

Does her husband accompany her on the road?

Carpenter's answer was a quick and emphatic "No." He stays home and takes care of their couple of horses, cats and four dogs. The canines include Cal, a 13-year-old golden retriever, and a few mixed-breed versions Carpenter called the "most marvelous combination platters."

Carpenter said she's never been able to write on the road and finds traveling "exceedingly hard."

Yet there are favorite venues she loves and would be heartbroken not to play every year.

Chastain Park in Atlanta is one of those. She plans her evening sets to finish with "Down At The Twist And Shout" so that audience members can dance in a conga line carrying lighted plastic flamingos.

"They're so wild," she said of her loyal fans. "They're so sweet.

"We're just a schmo touring act. It makes us feel like the Beatles."

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