Midway through the pandemic in 2020, Mary Chapin Carpenter wanted to find ways to stay creative, connect with fans, and get music out into the world at a time when concerts weren’t happening and albums were suspended.
One of the ways she achieved this goal was with the “Songs from Home” series. Carpenter filmed solo performances from his kitchen, sometimes with guest appearances from his golden retriever and “producer” Angus and his cat, White Kitty.
It was all pretty laid back, fun, and authentic, and gave fans a little window into the world of Carpenter back home.
Yet another project intended to provide some solace and entertainment during the pandemic was not so spontaneous or modestly produced.
In November 2020, Carpenter and a crew, while carefully following protocols to avoid becoming infected with COVID, filmed an entire concert at one of Carpenter’s favorite venues, the Wolf Trap’s Filene Center in Vienna, Virginia. . This show has now been released on DVD and CD and titled “One Night Lonely”.
“I just had this idea of wanting to not only continue to release music in concert form, but also, understandably, a document of the times we were in,” Carpenter explained.
She said it was important that they made it clear that there was no audience. She also tamped down the “pattern” between songs. “It would have been actually a little ridiculous, I think, not to talk to anyone,” Carpenter explained.
Still, the team made sure it was a “world-class production”, not a DIY that the pandemic had made hugely popular. It was presented with “beautiful lighting and the beautiful stage that Wolf Trap has at the Filene Center,” Carpenter said.
At 26 songs, it’s a bountiful package that encompasses nearly the entirety of the country singers’ more than three-decade career. He also presents his music in a format that it had not yet represented on his albums: the acoustic solo.
Carpenter has performed solo concerts over the years and has often included solo acoustic segments in shows she performs with a band. But the Filene Center performance was a unique experience, she said.
“It was very weird on the one hand, but it was also heartwarming to do it because it’s what I’ve been doing for so many years,” she said.
Although it had no audience, Carpenter filmed it live, with no reshoots—or stitching together of segments after filming.
“It was from the first song to the last song,” she said. “And I remember, as I was playing the last song, the weight of it was, ‘God, I’ve been here over two hours or whatever.’ It was exhausting at the time, but at the same time it was very, very cold on stage. I could see my breath on the last two songs and my hands were getting cold and my fingers were freezing. It was an unusual experience throughout. But at the same time, it was just very magical.
Acoustic solo performances on “One Night Lonely” allow the melody of Carpenter’s songs to shine through and further highlight his thoughtful lyrics and prized skills as a guitarist. The whole leans decidedly towards its more serious and meditative material.
Playful hits like “Shut Up and Kiss Me”, “Down at the Twist and Shout”, and “Passionate Kisses” are not played. Perhaps the lightest song is “I Take My Chances”, an upbeat song with some serious reflections on Carpenter’s approach to life.
A five-time Grammy winner who has sold a total of 12 million albums, Carpenter, 64, made her national debut with her 1987 album “Hometown Girl.”
Early on, his label, Columbia Records, marketed Carpenter as a country artist, though his music also contained elements of folk, rock, and pop. That said, the plan worked.
His third album, 1990’s “Shooting Straight in the Dark,” gave him a breakthrough country hit with “Down at the Twist and Shout,” and then the follow-up album, “Come On Come On,” made Carpenter a major star. The album spawned four top 10 country hits – “Passionate Kisses” (a Lucinda Williams song), “I Feel Lucky”, “He Think He’ll Keep Her” and “I Take My Chances” – in went on to become quadruple platinum. .
Carpenter’s next album, “Stones in the Road”, included his first chart-topping country single, “Shut Up and Kiss Me”.
Since then, Carpenter has maintained the quality of his songwriting, while creating a more ballad-oriented sound on his next eight studio albums. The hit singles have dried up, but Carpenter remains a popular gig draw.
‘The Dirt and the Stars’, the artist’s latest studio album, is well represented on ‘One Night Lonely’. She performs “All Broken Hearts Break Differently”, “Traveler’s Prayer”, the cut track and “Farther Along and Further In” (the latter being the song that opens “The Dirt and the Stars” and sets the tone for the album) .
“That song in particular, it was important to me that it opened the record because I think it sort of sets out a theme that kind of runs through the whole record, which is just the wisdom that comes with getting older and everything. what pertains to it,” Charpentier said.
Carpenter traveled to Bath, England to Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios to record “The Dirt and the Stars”. She also recorded her 2018 album, “Sometimes the Sky” there.
“Everything about it is magical and world-class, and just a unique place to be creative,” she said of the installation.
As usual, Carpenter didn’t share his songs with the musicians until it was time to go to work in the studio. She said it fosters a collaborative environment.
“I have a way of doing it, which is I play the song for everyone on my own,” Carpenter said. “An arrangement evolves and reveals itself in a way… Everyone brings their own ideas to it, and in the end, it comes together.”
This summer’s extensive tour will give Carpenter his first opportunity to showcase songs from “The Dirt and the Stars” in a full band setting. She was due to go on tour last year with Shawn Colvin before a shoulder injury forced her to abandon the tour.
Carpenter thinks she’s cured.
“It’s kind of hard to know until you’re right in the middle of, you know, playing every night and kind of testing it that way,” Carpenter said. “I’ve spent the last year doing physical therapy and trying to build up my arm strength, and we’ll see how that goes.”
The exact songs fans will hear on any given night will vary, as Carpenter plans to change her set list from show to show, including at Greenfield Lake, where she is scheduled to perform on Sunday, August 21 at 6:30 p.m.
“We’re going to move the pieces around like a chessboard and play with them,” she said. “There just isn’t enough time to play all the songs I want to play. I guess at this point in my life it’s something to be happy about instead of feeling like it’s an inconvenience.
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