Album Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Age of Miracles

Jim Caligiuri | May 5th, 2010

mary-chapin-carpenter-the-age-of-miraclesMary Chapin Carpenter was a major country music star in the 1990s, due more to record label maneuvering than the music she made. Her hits were memorable and firmly in possession of her distinct point of view, but, truth be told, she was an unrepentant folkie feminist with an Ivy League education who slipped onto country radio, won Grammy awards and sold millions of records.

The Age of Miracles–Carpenter’s third effort since signing with the Rounder Records imprint Zoe in 2007 (a label well suited to her literate and proudly adult music)–is almost entirely a reaction to the near fatal pulmonary embolism she suffered three years ago. Carpenter describes the album best, saying it’s “a personal exploration of regret and resilience but also a larger, more universal expression of wonder at the times that we are living in.” The title track is a prime example of her thoughtfulness, referencing the moon landing, Hurricane Katrina and protests by Buddhist monks in Burma. Elsewhere, she writes about the first wife of Ernest Hemingway (“Mrs. Hemingway”) and Chinese artist/activist Chen Gueng and his remembrances of the Tiananmen Square massacre (“4 June 1989”).

Heady stuff that is gracefully and thoughtfully accomplished. In a nod to those aforementioned Nashville days, there’s the gently rocking “I Put My Ring Back On” (with backing vocals from Vince Gill), while “What You Look For” is electric yet sweetly persuasive. Hot young country, or whatever they’re calling it these days, it’s not–but those seeking something with meaning and artistry will find a lot to appreciate on The Age Of Miracles

3.5 Stars

  1. Rick
    May 5, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    I was a fan of MCC’s music back in her peak career years and tolerated the fact she was “an unrepentant folkie feminist with an Ivy League education”. In this current dark age of the Obama Regime that is no longer the case. I’ve decided to “boycott” all artists who were Obamavoters and haven’t wised up yet and repented of their “useful idiocy”! Oh well…

    Jim, you’ll get a lot more response action here if you focus on the Austin scene and doings in the Americana, Texas Regional, and Red Dirt happenings down there! A lot of the regulars here have their own blogs focusing on such matters. Personally I’d love to see features on The Marshall Ford Swing Band, The Belleville Outfit, or Shoot Low Sheriff! (I guess you can sense where my tastes lie these days…)

  2. Bingham
    May 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Boycotting artists because they are a Democrat or Republican is pretty childish.

  3. Chris N.
    May 5, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    I’m sure Mary Chapin is heartbroken to lose such a thoughtful listener.

  4. J.R. Journey
    May 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Democrats can pick and sing too.

  5. remy123go
    May 6, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Gee, I think I’ll stick with the folkie feminist with the Ivy education, great voice and wonderful lyrics over the Thought Police.
    But, hey, I like the Dixie Chicks too, including Natalie’s politics.

  6. Erik
    May 6, 2010 at 6:41 am

    I guess I should boycott 90% of my favorite artists because I find their political and religious stands ridiculous. After all, that IS what matters when listening to music.

  7. Emmy
    May 6, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Seriously, I would have responded to Rick’s comment last night when I first saw it, but I was too busy holding my baby. At any rate, here’s my comment saying thanks for the review of a great artist who always manages to put out something thought provoking. I miss MCC from country radio, and greatly appreciate sites like this that help make me aware when under-appreciated (by radio anyway) artists are putting out new music or being active in general. So, I completely disagree with Rick’s “Jim, you’ll get a lot more response action here if you focus on…”…he sounds like country radio – exclusionary. I think we have enough of that already.

  8. Jim C
    May 6, 2010 at 9:11 am

    hey Rick were you born dumb or are you a product of our proud Texas ‘education’ system?

    as for the rest, get yer own blog.

  9. Kelly
    May 6, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Big fan of MCC, havent heard the whole alum, but I really dig the track with Gill in the background that I have heard.

  10. William
    May 16, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    I heard the title track this morning at borders and I’ve played the cd at least three times already. Beautiful album. Oh, and Rick….you, like so many others on your “side of the fence”, aren’t helping your cause.

  11. Robert Hines
    May 26, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Rick..

    Are you serious man? You boycott artists based on your version of what’s right and wrong with the country? I know I’m not thinking about politics when I hear a love song. And when did an “Ivy League education” become a liability? Please don’t parrot that talk radio propaganda crap on this MUSIC REVIEW SITE!! BTW.I’m sure MCC won’t lose any sleep if you don’t buy her new album.

    Your are correct about one thing! We can “sense where your tastes are”…the same place your head is..right up your…

  12. Tre
    May 30, 2010 at 12:38 am

    “The Age Of Miracles” is fantastic. The song, “I Have A Need For Solitude” and the title track are pure genius. Chapin continues to do her thing and does it better than anyone else. On a side note, I happen to admire and respect intelligent, educated women… suck it, “Rick.”

  13. Lilybart
    June 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    The guy who will boycott all Dem artists is not going to be going to any movies or watching anything on TV then except maybe Cops, and even then, the crew will be liberals!

  14. Massie
    August 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Hey folks!!! This is one of the best CD of 2010. Talk about music not politics. And listen the CD. It has some musical gems.

  15. Tommy
    April 28, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Just wanted to drop a comment and say I am new to your blog and really like what I am reading. Thanks for the great content. Look forward to coming back for more.

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