My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

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Album Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter – ‘Come On Come On’

Mary Chapin Carpenter’s fourth album could also be titled Greatest Hits 1992 – 94. Selling an impressive four-million copies, the disc also contains an unprecedented 7 hit singles, all of which charted in the top 20, with 4 of them going top 5.  At the time of the album’s release, and subsequently, Carpenter was riding a wave of success that found her a critical and awards show darling, while also firmly in the good graces of country radio.  It’s not often an artist can ably straddle the fence between commercial and critical success, but with her witty brand of folk-country, infused with just enough zest to sell it to the masses, Mary Chapin Carpenter did just that for the first half of her career.  Her commercial zenith was reached with Come On Come On, and some would say her artistic peak is also seen on this album.

To lead off, Columbia Records sent the plucky novelty tune ‘I Feel Lucky’ to radio. Mary Chapin Carpenter penned the song with the legendary Don Schlitz and it went to #3 on the singles chart, partly aided by a funny, offbeat music video.  Its recurrent status on CMT is one of the first things that made me notice Mary Chapin Carpenter.  Still intent on courting the country audience, the disc’s second single is the elegant country duet with traditional crooner Joe Diffie.  Two would-be lovers contemplate what they’ll mean to each other as the pair deliver the ballad softly amid a sparse piano-driven arrangement.  Peaking at #15, it’s one of the best songs on the album, but one of the lesser successful singles.

A cover of Lucinda Williams’ ‘Passionate Kisses’ followed at radio.  The track from the singer-songwriter’s self-titled 1988 album comes to life with Carpenter and John Jenning’s production.  The guitars rock and the drums roll to give the song its signature melody while the singer asks for all the things she wants in life, along with ‘passionate kisses from you’ to go with them.  Carpenter’s recording earned Williams a Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1994 and rose to #4 on the country singles chart.

Also co-written with Don Schlitz, ‘The Hard Way’, more than any other song in her catalog, is the best example of the Mary Chapin Carpenter sound.  The guitars are turned up a littler louder than most mixes, the lyrics are brilliant, and the vocals are crisp, confident, and clear.  The song itself is a sort of plea for affection from your significant other, but it’s more a collection of nuggets of wisdom, woven into rhyming verses.  ‘Show the world a little light when you show it your heart/We’ve got two lives, one we’re given and the other one we make’.  Another hit, this stopped just outside the top 10 at #11.

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