Mary Chapin Carpenter visits South Orange Performing Arts Center on Thursday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m
Impossible to pigeonhole in a single genre, Mary Chapin Carpenter’s music has earned her accolades from every corner, including five Grammy Awards and the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year twice over. From thoughtful ballads like “Superman” to rollicking and irreverent rockers like “Passionate Kisses,” Mary Chapin Carpenter’s captivating voice and songwriting has kept her at the top of the charts for over 30 years.
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Mary Chapin Carpenter was born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, the daughter of a Life magazine executive; she spent two years of her childhood in Japan, where her father was launching the Asian edition of Life. In 1974 her family moved to Washington, D.C., where she became involved in the city’s Folk music scene. After graduating from high school in the mid-’70s, she spent a year traveling Europe then enrolled at Brown University, where she was an American civilization major.
Her first album, 1987’s Hometown Girl and the followup State of the Heart (1989) earned her a loyal following and two Top Ten singles, “Never Had It So Good” and “Quittin’ Time.” Shooting Straight in the Dark (1990) earned her even greater success as “Down at the Twist and Shout” became a number two single. Her breakthrough album, Come On, Come On (1992) shifted her Folk songs into high gear with Honky Tonk and Country Rock songs that brought her several hit singles. “I Feel Lucky,” “Passionate Kisses” and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” all made the Hot Country song charts. Mary Chapin Carpenter earned five Grammy Awards during this period and solidified her status as a star of Country Music.
The 2000s brought a decidedly different turn to Mary’s music as she became more reflective and returned to her Folk roots. A series of albums have followed, each following their own creative vision and path but all radiating Mary Chapin Carpenter’s unique style and evocative vocals. In 2018 she took another look back at her catalog with her latest album Sometimes Just the Sky. It features 12 stripped down versions of her songs, along with the original title track.