Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Calling

Today sees the release of a new Mary-Chapin Carpenter album. Thus, today also sees me in blissful reverie as I listen to her soothing tunes, and blogging about same.

I knew it was coming, and I'd even been bugging my sources in multimedia-box-opening land at Borders if they'd chanced upon a promo copy of it yet. (Alas, in this age of digital music, the promotional CD is practically the dodo bird. The promo is dead, long live the promo!) But it wasn't until last night that I walked by the poster, and touched the CD, and saw MCC in all her contemplative, guitar-toting, wistful, reflective, black-and-white-picture glory, and my heart began racing. I had a total physical reaction upon looking at it. You look, too! Click here.

Anyway, so that's a great thing to happen on any Tuesday, to have a new release from one of my favorites. I've been listening to her for well over half my life. Mary-Chapin, Indigo Girls, R.E.M., they're my stalwarts. I mean, I've also been listening to Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel and The Mamas and the Papas and Joan Baez and such-like hippies, and other classic rock, not to mention standards and classical music, for my entire life, but see, those were around when I was born. The aforementioned trio of die-hard favorites are the ones to whom I started listening AS they were producing their music. Well, maybe R.E.M. had started before I really paid attention and I had to catch up on a few tapes. (Tapes! I love it.) But I continue to listen, and the most delightful part, they continue to make music. A lifetime later. There are others I loved then who seem to have dropped off my still-actively-listening and salivating-about-new-releases radars: Sinead O'Connor, say. Melissa Etheridge. Or whose bands have broken up: INXS, The Wonder Stuff, 10,000 Maniacs. Or who joined my fold in the late- or post-college years: Erin McKeown, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin. This is to say nothing of the myriad other artists I listen to, or the ones in whom I dabble.

But as far as artists who consistently are in my heart and thoughts, and whose new releases I'll never miss (well, once I forgave R.E.M. for the travesty that was Monster, which forgiveness took a while), I think R.E.M. and Indigo Girls and my girl Mary-Chapin Carpenter are the ones whom I tapped into in the late eighties, who carried me through adolescence, and who have stayed by my side since, even as we have all changed and grown.

I once theorized, with some fellow die-hard Indigo Girls fans, that my fandom of them is sort of like being "married" to them. (One can do this sort of thing, with equally die-hard Indigo Girls fans, and not have eyebrows raised at one.) Stick with me, 'cause it's just a metaphor, and I think it's a good one. We've been together through thick and thin. I met them when I was an adolescent. I came to love them. They have become so woven into my life and I can neither remember being without them nor conceive of what the intervening years would have been like had I never met them. Sometimes, their albums aren't quite the crush-tingly-butterfly excitement I once felt for them, but this is a good "marriage" and they have never done anything to make me lose respect for them. I will always listen to them. It's not even a question.

And in this metaphor, R.E.M. is kind of like my first love, that I didn't end up being with. And I'm at peace with that life decision. I don't answer "R.E.M." when asked my favorite band, but I continue to listen to them, and occasionally when I do it is very nostalgic and heartfelt and good. Also, I kind of went away from them for a few years--not in anger, just some space. They're like the ex you had to take a break from before being friends, but now we are good, and have been for years.

And I think Mary-Chapin--I don't know. She's like, the one I never ended up together with, even though I maybe should have. When I first spent time with her (high school, and her getting country-station airplay) I'm not sure we really understood each other. We had a lot of great times, but seemed to be heading in different directions, and I never made her my first priority. Later, I rediscovered her, and still later after she left the trappings of Nashville far behind, I realized I really could have loved her.

Yeah, yeah, the analogy starts to break down here, because of course I do love her, and I have sat in concert halls, enthralled and touched to the very fiber of my being, and it's not really "cheating on" Indigo Girls, and all that. That's the great thing about music! We can all be players! And just listen to and love them all!

Only I still feel sad for those who, in the words of "Melissa"(which I consider the official All-Time Best Song That Is Also A Woman's First Name) know many but love none.

"Everybody's waiting for a sign
I won't worry, I think we'll be just fine
in your life story
It's your life story, and my life story
this is our life story..."
--mary-chapin carpenter, 'your life story'
(from the new album!)

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