with Emily Barker
Mary Chapin Carpenter
with Emily Barker
|Price:||$55 Advance GA / $60 Day Of Show GA / $150 Reserved|
Five-time Grammy winner + one of Rolling Stone’s 25 Best Country & Americana Albums.Buy Tickets
ALL AGES: 18+ w/ valid photo ID, under 18 must be accompanied by parent or guardian.
Reserved seating is available for $150 and guarantees a seat in the reserved section. If necessary groups will be paired together at tables. Seating is based on time of purchase and the configuration of groups.
For nearly thirty years strong, on many albums like Come On. Come On, Stones in the Road, Between Here and Gone, and Ashes and Roses, Mary Chapin Carpenter has earned the trust of her audience through her willingness to look deep into herself and share joys and sorrows, good times and bad.
That honesty, that quiet fearlessness, reaches a startling new level on The Things That We Are Made Of. These eleven songs communicate with the plain-spokenness of handwritten, heartfelt letters from a confiding friend; this is art without the artifice. The result is music that is likely to be as powerfully moving as any you have ever heard.
The album is suffused with images of maps and traveling – yearning for stillness when in motion, longing for adventure when in repose. “Do we ever stop dreaming of where we belong?,” Carpenter asks in “Map of My Heart.” That’s just one of many unanswerable questions the album raises. Another song wonders “What Does It Mean To Travel,” and offers a meditation on the complex interweaving of distance and desire. Its interrogative tone is one of the album’s most alluring qualities, and why it stays with you so long even after just one hearing. Those questions invite listeners into a conversation, and implicate them in the emotions the songs display for us.
The consequences of our attempts to engage those feelings linger long after the songs themselves have stopped playing. The songs and their questions are now inside us. We are like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the great gospel blues pioneer whom Carpenter conjures in “Oh Rosetta” as she walks alone in New York, baffled by the world’s refusal of its own redemption. “If the world is offered goodness but doesn’t use it,”
Carpenter asks, “Oh, Rosetta, what is it for?” That pained question rests on one of the modest certainties that growing older brings, as she sings in “The Middle Ages”: “love and kindness are all that matter now.”
The first song, “Something Tamed, Something Wild,” opens with the image of “a shoebox full of letters bound up neatly with some twine,” a suggestion of the elements of reflection and remembrance that are so central to the album. Such letters, no doubt, are very much among “The Things That We Are Made Of,” the title song that closes the album. In that aching ballad, Carpenter explores how our lives are comprised of all our experiences – the wonderful and the ravaging, the exalting and the terrifying. We have no choice but to accept the self all those experiences have helped shape and move with hope into the future. “I come on quiet but I’m as fierce as a lion,” Carpenter sings in “Hand On My Back,” and that strength informs all of the album’s unflinching self-examinations.
The Things That We Are Made Of was recorded in Nashville and produced by Dave Cobb, best known most recently for his work with Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson. “I was so happy he wanted to work with me,” Carpenter says, laughing. “Finding a producer is a little like looking for a date
for the prom – will anybody want to take me? But I couldn’t have felt more embraced and welcomed.” Appropriately, Carpenter’s voice and eloquent
acoustic guitar are squarely at the center of these songs, with Cobb’s electric guitar, Mike Webb’s keyboards, Chris Powell’s drums and Annie Clements’ bass filling out the spare arrangements and providing atmosphere and texture.
Because of the consistency of its themes, the cool introspection of Carpenter’s voice, and the mid-to-slow tempos, the album unfolds like one long, mesmerizing song. Within that rich coherence, Cobb suggested subtle touches that keep every new hearing fresh. “He’s very old school in that he likes hooks and choruses,” Carpenter says, “so he would indicate a riff or something else and say, ‘I’d like to hear that again,’ so the record doesn’t drag. And the way we sequenced it, we take you on a journey.”
The Things That We Are Made Of offers listeners a significant gift – an unguarded look into the beating heart of one of the strongest singer-songwriters of our time. In an intriguing way, Carpenter occasionally sounds as if she stands in the same relationship to the album that we do, that having created it, she is still plumbing it for meaning and for sustenance. “I feel as if I’m still trying to come up with a reliable way of talking about what this album is about,” Carpenter says. “I haven’t finished thinking about it. It’s part of an
ongoing conversation that I’m having with myself about my life. But if you’re not trying to connect in some way to the world, what else is there? All I can hope for is that people connect to it. That’s the most rewarding part of doing this work – believing that you’re speaking to what we all feel.
Emily Barker’s new album Sweet Kind of Blue is love story, between Barker and Memphis.
To understand how this love affair began, you have to go right back to the start… Barker grew up in remote, rural Western Australia; a childhood that was blessed with an almost idyllic, roaming freedom instilled not only an itinerant spirit, but also a mighty work ethic that has seen her playing over two hundred shows a year and on the cusp of releasing what will be her tenth studio album (including her albums with The Red Clay Halo, Vena Portae and last year’s acclaimed debut as part of country trio Applewood Road).
It is largely thanks to John Peel that Emily Barker first settled in the UK. After leaving home to see the world, she ended up on the Cambridge folk scene, and formed the band, the-low-country. Just as she was considering resuming her studies back home, Peel started playing them on Radio 1, so she stayed. Her music has since been described as “heartfelt songwriting… bridging the gap between folk, country and Fleetwood Mac” (The Times), “ambitious and beautifully wrought” (Q), while the Guardian applauds her “gift for great melodies.”
This gift has not gone unnoticed by film makers, resulting in Barker penning and performing theme songs for award-winning television dramas Wallander and The Shadow Line as well as an entire musical score for Jake Gavin’s poignant and well-received 2015 road movie, Hector, starring Peter Mullan.
Since taking a hiatus from multi-instrumental all-female group The Red Clay Halo, with whom she made four albums, Barker has been edging closer to the sources of her musical inspiration. At a tender age, her mother taught her to sing harmonies while her father introduced her to his record collection (they didn’t own a television). And then as she entered her teens, she discovered the blues and soul of Aretha Franklin, Koko Taylor and Bettye LaVette, and that’s where this story really begins.
In recent years Barker has made herself at home in Nashville and Memphis, performing, collaborating and basking in musical history. In Nashville in 2014 she formed the trio Applewood Road with Tennessee-based songwriters Amber Rubarth and Amy Speace. Their eponymous LP was recorded at Welcome to 1979 studio in Nashville. Applewood Road was a regular on best-of-2016 album lists, they toured extensively, played Glastonbury and Cambridge Folk Festivals and made numerous television appearances.
On a visit to Muscle Shoals, Barker was shown around Fame Studios, where she fell in love with the old equipment used to record Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Etta James. Soon after arriving back in the UK, she cropped her hair, got a slick black suit and a beautiful 1937 Gibson, and recorded a stripped-down solo album at analogue Toe Rag studios in East London (where The White Stripes recorded Elephant). The seeds of Sweet Kind of Blue were well and truly sown.
Meanwhile, plans for her new record started taking shape soon after. She was introduced to Grammy-winning producer Matt Ross-Spang, and the two hit it off straight away. Ross-Spang was the catalyst that brought Barker and Memphis together – born and bred in “Bluff City”, he honed in on where Barker’s roots lay as soon as she played him the songs she had been writing for the album.
Sweet Kind of Blue was recorded in June 2016, at the legendary Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, where the tapes have been rolling since 1960. Phillips opened his dream studio (he called it “the Cape Canaveral of studios”) after he and his artists Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and B B King outgrew Sun Studio, a few blocks away.
The stars were perfectly aligned for the Memphis sessions. Barker brought her songs, her guitar, that cathedral of a voice and her irrepressible freewheeling spirit. Ross-Spang was riding high following his Grammy for Jason Isbell’s Something More than Free, and the runaway success of Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. Sam Phillips’ son Jerry, and granddaughter Halley, welcomed Barker into the fold and couldn’t tear themselves away from the studio throughout recording. And as each track was laid down, Barker, her band (you will have heard these musicians on Cat Power’s The Greatest as well as records by Neil Young, Booker T and the MGs, Al Green and many more) and everyone in the control room fell a little bit more in love with each other. Spines tingled and eyes did not remain dry.
The result is an intoxicating blend of Barker penned songs about loves lost, heartrending humanity, the rush of the road trip and the sheer glory of a new love. The first single, ‘Sister Goodbye’, is a soulful tribute to one of Barker’s guitar-slinging heroes, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, while the title track, ‘Sweet Kind of Blue’ captures the beautiful urgency of missing a new lover. Its name, says Barker, “also nods to the record’s blues elements, with blue-eyed soul being the ’60s term for white artists performing rhythm and blues”. But the making of Sweet Kind of Blue is a love story in itself, between Barker and Memphis.