Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter’s sophisticated lyrics find a home in this city of literature

NNF18 - Mary Chapin Carpenter. Photo: Aaron Farrington

NNF18 - Mary Chapin Carpenter. Photo: Aaron Farrington - Credit: Aaron Farrington

The Norwich Theatre Royal welcomed Grammy-award winning, and Nashville Hall of Fame inductee, singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter for the first time on Thursday night, as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Mary Chapin Carpenter album Sometimes Just The Sky. Photo: Lambent Light Records

Mary Chapin Carpenter album Sometimes Just The Sky. Photo: Lambent Light Records - Credit: Lambent Light Records

That she should feel at home so quickly comes as no surprise.

Her sophisticated and subtle lyrics found an audience, in this UNESCO City of literature, for whether you know her music or not you can sit back and appreciate the story she tells in each and every song.

The concert marked the end of Carpenter's brief tour of the UK. It focused on her most recent album 'Sometimes Just the Sky' which showcases tunes from her thirty-year recording history.

She told a packed theatre that these songs have been 're-imagined' to give them a new lease of life.


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For example, 'Naked to the Eye' becomes hoedown-ready with mandolin to the fore, whilst 'I Feel Lucky' allowed Carpenter's long-time keyboard player Jon Carroll the opportunity to enhance this crowd-favourite, with piano playing suitably honky-tonk without being plinky-plonk.

The arrangements of a few of Carpenter's most iconic songs had occasionally been changed to suit her now lower, but still serene vocals.

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But rest assured, foot-tapping audience pleasers like 'I Take My Chances' lost none of their energy thanks to the synergy of the band and the effervescence of the front woman herself.

Carpenter's musical ethos is summed up in the fact that between every song she changed her guitar.

'Tuning matters' she told us, and thanks to the acoustics of the Theatre Royal, the full and intricate sound of her country-style work could be properly appreciated.

The show, to a near sell-out audience, ended with Mary Chapin describing her rural home in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains as a prelude to the song 'I Have a Need for Solitude.'

Before playing this as a stunning acoustic-guitar solo, she wished the audience a safe trip back to their homes and the hope that she'd be able to return to East Anglia before too long.

The rapturous applause and standing ovation, after this second encore, suggested that she'll be welcomed back with open arms

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