The Calling is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s first release for Zoe/Rounder Records, and her first in a long time (last release, Between Here and Gone, in April, 2004). MCC has always been a difficult artist to categorize, with roots in pop and folk, yet strangely, she had her biggest success on the C&W charts. Given Country’s treatment of the Dixie Chicks, MCC’s left-leaning sentiments would seem to be an odd match for the red states. It’s probably more of a testament to her songwriting skills and her ability to develop musical hooks that would make the Beatles or Byrds envious.
This is her strongest outing in years, and one has to wonder if the creative spark has been rekindled as a result of a new relationship with an independent label. Never one to shy away from challenging, MCC does not disappoint here. She takes on religious zealots in the title track, The Calling, with some sharp lyrics about those who feel the need to invoke higher authorities to justify their actions. The cut, Houston, is a moving piece about the evacuation for hurricane Katrina. On with the Song deals with the C&W boycott of the Dixie Chicks. The strongest cut, Why Shouldn’t We, is directed at our government leaders and their unwillingness to listen, and has all the makings of an anthem for this generation, much as Blowin’ in the Wind spoke for mine.
I’m VERY impressed by this CD. It’s a provocative and deeply moving work that deals with a longing for world that is focused on elemental human needs and does not spare the foolish in decrying their roles in making things worse. A meaningful release from an artist who has captured a collective voice…don’t let it go unheard.