STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
If you missed Mary Chapin Carpenter’s sold-out August show in Sellersville, you didn’t completely miss the boat.
The folk/country singer-songwriter will be at the Academy of Music Oct. 9, along with folk activist icon Joan Baez.
Carpenter was not sure, at the time of a phone interview, if they would be performing on stage together. But it has happened before, and since the two singers are forever linked by the wistful Boomer-perspective song “Stones in the Road,” it should be considered a possibility. Carpenter wrote the song for Baez in 1992, then recorded her own version and made it the title of her No. 1-charting 1994 country album.
“She was a part of a number of concerts I did with the New York Philharmonic,” Carpenter said of Baez, adding that she was part of the Joan Baez 75th birthday show earlier this year at the Beacon Theater in New York (that was later broadcast on public TV station WNET).
Mary Chapin Carpenter playing with orchestras, eh?
She changed up her sound with the 2014 album “Songs from the Movie,” which featured her singing with all-orchestral instrumentation. “It makes me feel nimble (as a songwriter),” she commented.
Throughout her career, the eloquent lyricist has performed alongside the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the London Concert Orchestra, the L.A. Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra.
Not one to rest on her laurels for very long, this year Carpenter released her 14th album, “The Things That We Are Made of Now.” The sound returns to the more familiar, and she waxes poetic on the joys and sorrows of where she’s been, and reflects on traveling and where she’s going. “If you look at the lyrics … it’s just a list of questions, continuing to be inquisitive and ask questions. It’s OK not to know,” Carpenter said.
“The Things That We Are Made of Now” features a new band, and a new producer in Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson), who played multiple instruments on the new songs. Carpenter’s long-time guitarist, producer and songwriting collaborator, John Jennings, passed away from kidney cancer last year.
She called Cobb “a wonderful person to work with.”
It’s also her first album since 1992’s “Come On, Come On” that’s available in the vinyl record format. “Life is a big circle, and it’s terrific that things come back,” Carpenter commented.
Since 1987, Carpenter has sold more than 14 million albums and earned five Grammys, two CMA Awards and two ACM Awards. Of her Aug. 24 sell out in the region, she said: “It’s always incredibly gratifying, whether it’s a large venue or a small venue. It’s humbling that people are still interested in what you’re doing.”
Although “a very private person,” the singer and guitarist is active on Facebook
(www.facebook.com/officialmarychapin, 107,000+ followers), Twitter (https://twitter.com/M_CCarpenter, 16,200+ followers) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/M_ccarpenter, 6,600+ followers), sharing “my quirky self.”
“I use social media to get the word out. I don’t have to rely on radio. You can chart your own course that way … I love that about it. I see it as my front porch, in a way,” Carpenter said, mentioning times she’s posted photos of her dog and cloud views from airplane windows.
Anne Ewers, the president and CEO of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (which includes the Academy of Music), said in a press release: “Joan Baez and Mary Chapin Carpenter exude a value in which we strongly believe at the Kimmel Center: that art has the ability to unite people and bring about change. This performance is an incredible opportunity for us to present two brilliant musicians as they showcase hit songs spanning their impressive careers.”