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Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter was part of a small movement of folk-influenced country singer/songwriters of the late '80s. Although many of these performers never achieved commercial success, Carpenter was able to channel her anti-Nashville approach into chart success and industry awards by the early '90s.

Carpenter was born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, the daughter of a Life magazine executive; she spent two years of her childhood in Japan, where her father was launching the Asian edition of Life. Her mother had begun to play guitar during the folk explosion of the early '60s, and she gave her daughter a guitar when Mary became interested in music as a child. Carpenter played music during her high-school years, but she didn't actively pursue it as a career. In 1974 her family moved to Washington, D.C., where she became involved in the city's folk music scene. After graduating from high school in the mid-'70s, she spent a year traveling Europe; when she was finished, she enrolled at Brown University, where she was an American civilization major.

Following her college graduation, she became deeply involved in the Washington-area folk scene, performing a mixture of originals, contemporary singer/songwriter material, and pop covers. Carpenter met guitarist John Jennings during the early '80s and the pair began performing together. They eventually made a demo tape of their songs, which they sold at their concerts. The tape wound up at Columbia Records, and the label offered Carpenter an audition. By early 1987, Columbia had signed her as a recording artist, and her first album, Hometown Girl, was released that year.

Hometown Girl and its follow-up, State of the Heart (1989), earned her a dedicated cult following, as well as two Top Ten singles, "Never Had It So Good" and "Quittin' Time." Country radio was hesitant to play her soft, folky, feminist material, but she received good reviews and airplay on more progressive country stations, as well as college radio. Shooting Straight in the Dark, released in 1990, managed to break down a lot of the barriers that stood in her way. "Down at the Twist and Shout" became a number two single and the album sold well, setting the stage for her breakthrough album, 1992's Come on Come On.

Come on Come On signaled a slight change in direction for Carpenter -- although there were still folk songs, she felt freer to loosen up on honky tonk and country-rock songs, which resulted in several hit singles. Two of the singles from the album -- "I Feel Lucky" and "Passionate Kisses" -- hit number four, and "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" hit number two on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Come on Come On would eventually sell over two million copies. Her fifth album, Stones in the Road, released in 1994, concentrated on the folkier material, but it was still a major success, selling over a million copies within its first six months of release. The album's lead single, "Shut Up and Kiss Me," became Carpenter's first song to hit number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Performance. Her follow-up, 1996's Place in the World, also performed well, hitting number three on the country albums chart and reaching the Top 20 on the Billboard 200.

In 2001, Carpenter returned with her seventh studio album, Time* Sex* Love*. Recorded in London at famed Beatles producer Sir George Martin's Air Studios, the album found Carpenter departing somewhat from her country-inflected sound and ruminating on relationships and career from a distinctly middle-aged perspective. Carpenter's tenth album, 2004's Between Here and Gone, was produced in Nashville with longtime associates pianist Matt Rollings and guitarist John Jennings. The album was a somewhat introspective affair that revealed Carpenter still grappling with the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, as well as the death of fellow singer/songwriter Dave Carter, who inspired the title track.

In 2007, Carpenter delivered The Calling, her first album for Zoë Records after parting ways with Columbia. Co-produced by Carpenter and Rollings, The Calling hit number ten on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. A year later, Zoë also released a holiday album from Carpenter, Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas. A new studio album, The Age of Miracles, appeared early in 2010 and reached number one on the Billboard Folk Albums chart. Carpenter followed it in the summer of 2012 with Ashes and Roses, an entirely self-penned collection that she co-produced with Rollings. In 2013, she teamed with Grammy-winning arranger Vince Mendoza to create an orchestral album of songs from her existing catalog. Songs from the Movie was released in January of 2014 and celebrated with a perfamce of the set in its entirety with the the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the Celtic Connections Festival in the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland on Jan. 24.

Carpenter retreated to write immediately thereafter. In the spring of 2015, she entered the studio with producer Dave Cobb (who also played guitars and Mellotron during the sessions) and a small group of musicians and worked through the summer. The finished album entitled The Things That We Are Made Of (on her own Lambent Light label via Thirty Tigers), was prefaced by three tracks: "Something Tamed Something Wild" and "What Does It Mean To Travel" in December, and "Map Of My Heart" in December. The full length was released in May 2016. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Songs From The Movie

1. On And On It Goes

2. I Am A Town

3. Between Here And Gone

4. Ideas Are Like Stars

5. The Dreaming Road

6. Only A Dream

7. Come On Come On

8. Mrs. Hemingway

9. Where Time Stands Still

10. Goodnight America


Track List: Ashes & Roses

1. Transcendental Reunion

2. What To Keep And What To Throw Away

3. The Swords We Carried

4. Another Home

5. Chasing What's Already Gone

6. Learning The World

7. I Tried Going West

8. Don't Need Much To Be Happy

9. Soul Companion

10. Old Love

11. New Years Day

12. Fading Away

13. Jericho


Track List: The Age Of Miracles

1. We Traveled So Far

2. Zephyr

3. I Put My Ring Back On

4. Holding Up The Sky

5. 4 June 1989

6. I Was A Bird

7. Mrs. Hemingway

8. I Have A Need For Solitude

9. What You Look For

10. Iceland

11. The Age Of Miracles

12. The Way I Feel


Track List: The Calling

1. The Calling

2. We're All Right

3. Twilight

4. It Must Have Happened

5. On And On It Goes

6. Your Life Story

7. Houston

8. Leaving Song

9. On With The Song

10. Closer And Closer Apart

11. Here I Am

12. Why Shouldn't We

13. Bright Morning Star


Track List: Between Here And Gone

1. What Would You Say To Me

2. Luna's Gone

3. My Heaven

4. Goodnight America

5. Between Here And Gone

6. One Small Heart

7. Beautiful Racket

8. Girls Like Me

9. River

10. Grand Central Station

11. Shelter Of Storms

12. Elysium


Track List: The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter

1. Stones In The Road

2. The Long Way Home

3. Shut Up And Kiss Me

4. I Take My Chances

5. I Feel Lucky

6. Almost Home

7. Halley Came To Jackson

8. I Am A Town

9. Quittin' Time

10. Down At The Twist And Shout

11. He Thinks He'll Keep Her

12. Only A Dream

13. Late For Your Life

14. The Hard Way

15. Passionate Kisses

16. 10,000 Miles


Track List: Time Sex Love

1. Whenever You're Ready

2. Simple Life

3. Swept Away

4. Slave To The Beauty

5. Maybe World

6. What Was It Like

7. King Of Love

8. This Is Me Leaving You

9. Someone Else's Prayer

10. The Dreaming Road

11. Alone But Not Lonely

12. The Long Way Home

13. In The Name Of Love

14. Late For Your Life


Track List: Party Doll and Other Favorites

1. Can't Take Love For Granted

2. Wherever You Are

3. Down At The Twist And Shout (Live)

4. I Feel Lucky

5. Dreamland

6. Passionate Kisses

7. Quittin' Time

8. This Shirt

9. Grow Old With Me

10. He Thinks He'll Keep Her

11. I Take My Chances

12. Shut Up and Kiss Me

13. The Hard Way

14. 10,000 Miles

15. Stones in the Road

16. Almost Home

17. Party Doll


Track List: A Place In The World

1. Keeping The Faith

2. Hero In Your Own Hometown

3. I Can See It Now

4. I Want To Be Your Girlfriend

5. Let Me Into Your Heart

6. What If We Went To Italy

7. That's Real

8. Ideas Are Like Stars

9. Naked To The Eye

10. Sudden Gift Of Fate

11. The Better To Dream Of You

12. A Place In The World


Track List: Stones In The Road

1. Why Walk When You Can Fly

2. House Of Cards

3. Stones In The Road

4. A Keeper For Every Flame

5. Tender When I Want To Be

6. Shut Up And Kiss Me

7. The Last Word

8. The End Of My Pirate Days

9. John Doe No. 24

10. Jubilee

11. Outside Looking In

12. Where Time Stands Still

13. This Is Love


Track List: Come On Come On

1. The Hard Way

2. He Thinks He'll Keep Her

3. Rhythm Of The Blues

4. I Feel Lucky

5. The Bug

6. Not Too Much To Ask

7. Passionate Kisses

8. Only A Dream

9. I Am A Town

10. Walking Through Fire

11. I Take My Chances

12. Come On Come On


Track List: Shooting Straight In The Dark

1. Going Out Tonight

2. Right Now

3. The More Things Change

4. When She's Gone

5. Middle Ground

6. Can't Take Love For Granted

7. Down At The Twist And Shout

8. Halley Came To Jackson

9. What You Didn't Say

10. You Win Again

11. The Moon And St. Christopher


Track List: State of the Heart

1. How Do

2. Something Of A Dreamer

3. Never Had It So Good

4. Read My Lips

5. This Shirt

6. Quittin' Time

7. Down in Mary's Land

8. Goodbye Again

9. Too Tired

10. Slow Country Dance

11. It Don't Bring You


Track List: Soul Companion (Single)

2. Chasing What's Already Gone


Track List: The Things That We Are Made Of

1. Something Tamed Something Wild

2. The Middle Ages

3. What Does It Mean to Travel

4. Livingston

5. Map of My Heart

6. Oh Rosetta

7. Deep Deep Down Heart

8. Hand on My Back

9. The Blue Distance

10. Note on a Windshield

11. The Things That We Are Made Of

12. Between the Wars (Charleston 1937) [Bonus Track]

13. 88 Constellations (Bonus Track)


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Does anyone know if she is gay?
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A tour de force talent
Letterman had her on all the time trying to get people to get it
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wow have loved mcc for nearly two decades she is a jem in a world that is so fake and anxious for instant fame. her songs tell a story that any age can relate to; just wish she would come to Australia more often.
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What a marvelous lady... what a song writer ! I luv you MCC !
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Wish she would tour soon
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I like it when Pandora publishes Lyrics and Songwriter credits. Please continue, thanks
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Yummy mmmm Good Song ��
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I am always enervated by Down At The Twist And Shout. I love her energy!
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There's one Mary Chapin Caprenter song that I haven't found on any CD. Opening Act, a solo performance before Country music's greatest brought grins from the house. After all, when you're just starting out, everything can go wrong. (But not for the one who says I Feel Lucky.;)
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No one sings ballads better than this great lady...strai g h t from the heart. She's also a long-time lover of Golden Retrievers (the only love $$ fan buy!)
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A true songsmith... From her heart to your ears... And beyond.
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One of the best female singers.
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I just love her music.
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Saw MCC last night here in Santa Fe. Great concert with guest Aoife O'Donovan.
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I never understood the last few lines of this song. It sounds like, having made the bravemove to independence , she's being punished by working for minimum wage. Tin-eared ending.
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Excited to go her concert tonight!
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Why have you stopped printing lyrics with the song?
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My favorite female country vocalist.
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Not since Joni Mitchell has there been such a descriptive writer. Mary's songs are small movies: moments in time captured and visualized every time you listen. I love them all!
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Wow She is Amazing!
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I just bought my ticket for her upcoming concert in Santa Barbara.
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I love Mary and her music, come back to Ravinia, Mary Pleeeeease
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thelive version is better
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Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. However if you don't read this you will die in two days. Now that you've started reading this don't stop. This is so scary. Put this on five songs in the next 143 min. when your done press F6 an your lovers name will pop up on your screen in big letters. Trust me it works
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What a great PIANO SOLO oh yeah :o))
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Great sounds from this group and Mary C. can't hurt either.
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I have always enjoyed the idea that someone might know me better than myself. MC- you awesome :)
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I have only discovered Mary this year and play her music in this car, bedroom and in the rest of my home.
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Love your music Mary
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What a song what s great singer
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So proud of her for staying true to her heart. Her lyrics show her deep emotions and her angelic voice has no comparison. What an amazing artist!
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My favorite musician -- I've seen her in concert many times and I have followed her since the '80s! MCCC is a talented writer and gifted performer with countless amazing songs -- my favorite is Halley Came to Jackson. My grandma lived a similar story.
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Excellent song, excellent female musicians!!
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Real nice in concert. Her voice has a distinct quality live that is stunning. Saw her with Jackson Browne and Shawn Colvin and she was the star of the show.
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So cool! Wish we had more like her!
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She is Gifted and Graced!
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Yes, I have had the chance to see her live twice and she is an incredible singer but Halley's Comet has to be one of my favorites.
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Come On Come On is a flawless album. Hard to believe it's 20 years old now.
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coolmusiczon e _ 3 3
Awesome artist
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This is really a cover of Lucinda Williams who is one of the best female songwriters ever!!
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anne_e_kimbe r
Saw her perform in Madison, WI, this summer - you could feel the love, going both ways.
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Saw MCC Sept. 2012 in Michigan.... . . w h a t a talent,what a voice!....fa n t a s t i c show!
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My stones in the road turned into diamonds that flattened my tires and threw me face down into the road. Finally, I can relax, heal and stroll with my angels alonmg the path that takes us to the rainbows.
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Her songs give my heart a life and a smile. Her singing carries me to live what she sings. And she just gets better.
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spent a lot time traveling for work in my 20s and 30s ..many miles on the road listenting to Mary since she first came out ...1 of my favorite artists of all times ..LOOKING FORWARD TO HER NEW ALBUM !
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what an amazing artist. I hav never had the chance to see her in concert and would certainy love to. At times funny, she can still make this curmudgeon cry. Lord there is so much wonderful music out there to discover and so little time........
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Saw her in concert when introduced for first time by Jonathan Edwards at Constitution Hall in early 80's. Still impressed as I watched her career blossom.
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MCC is my favorite artist; been hooked since Hometown Girl. Come On, Come on was on of the best albums of the 1990s. Hope everyone has heard her Christmas CD put our a few years ago--an instant classic. Can't wait for the new album out in June 2012.
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bike2work200 0
Met her before she hit it big, in a record store in Alexandria, VA. It was just the two of us chatting. Got a signed copy of Hometown Girl as a result. Been smitten ever since...
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