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Mary Chapin Carpenter

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Biography

Mary Chapin Carpenter (born February 21, 1958) is a five-time Grammy Award-winning American country/folk singer-songwriter and guitarist with a diverse musical style.

Carpenter was born in Princeton, New Jersey to Mary Bowie Robertson and Chapin Carpenter, Jr., a Life Magazine executive. Carpenter spent two years in Japan as a child, moving to Washington, D.C. in 1974. She attended Princeton Day School, a private coeducational day school, before graduating from the Taft School, a Connecticut prep school, in 1976. Carpenter has described her childhood as a "pretty typical suburban," with her musical interests defined chiefly by whatever albums her older sisters had lying around. This included records by The Mamas & the Papas, the Beatles, and Judy Collins, along with some Woody Guthrie albums of her mother's.

Carpenter spent much of her time in high school playing the guitar and piano; in fact, while at Princeton Day School, legend has it that "classmates threatened to cut her guitar strings if she played 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' one more time."

Thinking that music was part of the problem, Carpenter stopped performing and began interviewing for regular work, though when someone offered her a position she "panicked," and became determined "to go back into music but change some things." She decided to play only original material, rather than covers, and she also quit drinking. Within a few years, Carpenter had landed a manager and recorded a demo tape that led to a deal with Columbia Records.

Some music critics argue that Carpenter's style covers such a wide range of influences that the question isn't even between "country" and "folk." Corliss described the songs in her album A Place in the World as "reminiscent of early Beatles or rollicking Motown," and one reviewer of Time* Sex* Love* noted the "wash of Beach Boys-style harmonies....backwards guitar loops" and use of a sitar on one track, all elements that wouldn't be commonly found on a country or folk album.

In 2001, Carpenter herself addressed the question of her status as a country artist. She said, "Lots of times people ask me, 'Are you still a country artist?' I have to tell them I don't know the answer."

After 1989's State of the Heart, Carpenter released Shooting Straight in the Dark in 1990, which yielded two big hits, the Grammy Award-winning "Down at the Twist and Shout" and "You Win Again," which gained some adult contemporary airplay as a crossover. Two years later, Carpenter released the album that, to date, has been her biggest popular success, the triple-platinum Come On Come On (1992). The album was also met with critical acclaim, with The New York Times writing that Carpenter had "risen through the country ranks without flash or bravado: no big hair, sequined gowns, teary performances....enriched with Ms. Carpenter's subtlety, Come On Come On grows stronger and prettier with every listen."

Carpenter's new album , The Calling, released on March 6, 2007 by Rounder Records' rock/pop imprint Zoƫ, features commentary about contemporary politics, a reaction to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on a track entitled "Houston," and an incendiary track entitled "On With the Song," dedicated to the Dixie Chicks, and addressing the visceral reaction to the trio.In less than three months after its release, The Calling has sold more than 100,000 copies in the US.



 


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