It’s Saturday night on Sixth Street in Austin, TX, and there is a lot activity. Tourists and locals are milling about in front of various music clubs. I turn right on Congress street, and there is a fleet of several riders on scooters scurrying down the street. The Starbucks is full of customers, and a African-American woman with her I-Phone and ear plugs is in a trance state while she is busy rubbing her head and her face. The marquee at the Paramount Theater advertises Mary Chapin Carpenter tonight.
Mary Chapin Carpenter on October 20, 2018, did indeed turn in a sterling performance at the Paramount Theatre in Austin. This is the 30th– anniversary tour for this gifted songwriter. She more than proved during her almost two- hour performance that her career is in a major productive era.
Accompanied by her splendid band which includes: Don Dixon-Bass, Nate Barns-Drums, Johnny Duke-Guitar and Jon Carroll-Keyboards, Carpenter delivered a generous set of seventeen songs spanning her 30- year tenure. Highlights included: “Why Shouldn’t We?” ” Why Walk When You Can Fly ?”, “Stones In The Road”, “Naked To The Eye”, “Passionate Kisses”, a ( Lucinda Williams song), and “The Bug, “( a cover by Dire Straits ). Throughout the night, Carpenter showcased the superb talents of her fellow musicians, including the interplay between Johnny Duke and Jon Carroll.
Mary Chapin Carpenter has stated that she doesn’t write stories, and yet her finely crafted songs reveal enlightening vignettes regarding an assortment of characters. Carpenter performed songs like “This Shirt”, “Shut Up And Kiss Me “ , “ I Feel Lucky “, and“ I Take My Chances “ all reveal the struggle in finding relationships that work. She also presented “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her which chronicles a relationship that finally busts up due to neglect and being taken for granted.
Recently, Carpenter traveled to England where she recorded her most recent album, “Sometimes Just the Sky “. When introducing this song, she referenced an interview with Patti Smith, who encouraged people to pursue what they love and know that in doing so, some people will push back and be critical of the art that is being created.
Mary Chapin Carpenter appears to be very comfortable in her own skin and confident in her art as a songwriter and performer.
Opening for Carpenter was Laura Cortez and The Dance Cards. This ensemble of four musicians: Laura Cortese-Voice and violin, Valerie Thompson-Cello, Natalie Bohrn-Upright Bass, and Jenna Moynihan,-Violin and Banjo blended a unique style that encompassed classical, Americana and Cajun elements into an extraordinary interplay. Their voices also harmonized wonderfully throughout their opening set.
Mary Chapin Carpenter reminded her audience:
“Sometimes it’s all at once, Sometimes Just The Sky. “
Carpenter filled a rich palette of musical textures, and yet she allowed for pause and reflection like looking at a clear sky.
May it be so.