Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin
“They just don’t do it for me anymore.” We’re almost at the end of a delightful evening of music and banter from Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin. MCC has just finished singing I Feel Lucky, and this is her confession. Though she sings about Lyle and Dwight just about every time she takes the stage, they wouldn’t make her feel lucky tonight.
Things change. There was a day when you could be a singer-songwriter with a folk or country slant and capture the hearts and minds of mainstream listeners. Not anymore, or at least not now, unless you’re an Americana group from the UK. MCC, and to a lesser degree, SC, have both seen the upside and the downside of that turnaround. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. In any event, they were Americana before we knew the name, and who knows? Things may turn around yet again. Turn on the radio, here’s the new one by Mumford & Sons, and a new one by Shawn Colvin. But I dreamgress.
On a Sunday evening in February in Jackson, Mississippi, as others were home watching the Oscars, these women entertained a large audience in Jackson, Mississippi, swapping songs and stories, playing with and for each other, sitting down and listening to each other, acting as if we were all in the same living room. In fact, their living room, at least temporarily, was parked right outside, in the form of a tour bus, and SC was there until the last minute, watching the red carpet telecast. MCC said they had to talk her out at showtime.
The setlist included those songs you might predict. SC did Trouble, Shotgun Down Avalanche and Sunny Came Home. At one point, someone shouted out for her to play that song, and she said, “Oh, I will.” In addition to I Feel Lucky, MCC gave us He Thinks He’ll Keep Her, The Hard Way and Halley Came To Jackson, a song about our city and one of its most famous citizens, Eudora Welty.
They did some well-selected and well-sung covers. Steve Earle’s Someday, Paul Simon’s The Only Living Boy In New York, and That’s The Way Love Goes. Although it’s not from our show, here’s a nice video of them doing that song:
They did some new stuff, too. Both had albums out in the last year. MCC’s record is Ashes and Roses, and she did the title song. SC’s record is All Fall Down, and she did Change Is On The Way (a co-write with Patty Griffin) from that record.
“Don’t do a new song, do an old song.” SC is joking about how audiences want to hear the old stuff. MCC rejoins that folks also want to know when your new album is coming out, even when one just came out. There’s some comment about the arc of a record and SC says, “My record has no arc.” It’s like that all night, one liners, stories, back and forth. MCC is more the straight man, while SC is the wacky one who’ll say just about anything. They act like an old married couple, rolling their eyes a bit, guessing what the other is going to say, etc. There are so many shared experiences. MCC and SC once went to Liverpool together, rode the Magical Mystery Tour Bus, and loved it. Turns out, there is a shelter in the middle of the roundabout. They saw it together.
SC tells the story of Taylor Swift calling, asking her to come sing Sunny Came Home with her. So that day, they do the rehearsal/sound check and everything’s great. The band knows the song cold, it’s all good. So SC is like, well, I’ll see you this evening, thanks. But Taylor Swift says there’s something else, you have to practice coming up out of the stage. There’s this elevator/riser thing, and she has to crawl under the stage, get in it and crouch down a bit because otherwise her head would be poking out and then the thing comes up. So she does that at rehearsal, then goes home and practices crouching down. She demonstrates this to us, and before she’s through we’re all laughing out loud.
MCC tells the story of having James Taylor sing on her last record. She explains that nobody actually gets in a studio together to do something like that. They send him the audio, and he records his part in his home studio when he gets in from a trip, late one night. So MCC is in bed, and she gets this email, and it’s JT sending his audio file. She’s sitting there in the dark listening to James Taylor sing for her, and she’s overcome.
It just went on and on. I’ll stop with the recount, and leave it at this. If you get the chance to see these two together, do it. Here’s a tour schedule.
Mando Lines is on Twitter @mando_lines.