Sometimes when two artists come together, magic happens. Last night Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter hit the small stage at the Norwalk Concert Hall (which is literally in the City Hall Building) in Connecticut for a beautiful blending of their talents. They are playing a number of shows together, continuing tonight at Infinity Hall, also in CT, and other venues in around the country. But last night was their first show together, and that’s always special.
Music is a highly collaborative art, and the mixings of a particular performance are always unique. The chemistry between these two old friends who have lent back-ups to each other’s recordings over the years was so strong that it felt like we were hanging out with them in on the porch while they pulled out the old songs they always wanted to play.
A lot of it was covers from Tom Waits, the Backstreet Boys, and short references to everyone from James Taylor to Bob Dylan to Katy Perry. Shawn Colvin tends to provide comedy relief in her reminiscences from the road—and hopefully she will share her Sting guitar-tuning story again. Mary Chapin (her first name) Carpenter is the warm friend who rolls with whatever comes along and cracks jokes as they come to her. And while their patter includes references to loser boyfriends and hot flashes, their lyrics are mostly about small moments in life and love—the good and the bad, and what lies between.
There was someone in his past that he hasn’t gotten over yet
Each day’s like the last, he just misses what he can’t forget
It’s just an empty space where something used to be
Now he guards the gate, but he’s lost the key
So no one enters, but no one leaves
There’s a keeper for every flame
Sweetness and light, you were right,
Summers are getting harder
Days echo by–blood red sky
Chop wood and carry water
We only do what we can and there’s a natural plan, you know
I know that you understand cause you’re just that kind of man, you know
Oh we try and try and we cry baby cry and
Everybody knows we get nowhere
Again and again forever til the end and anwhere you go I will go there
And, it should be noted they are both phenomenal guitarists. While I lean heavily toward Shawn Colvin’s syncopated, rolling riffs,
it would hard not to appreciate the fine fingerwork of MCC’s delicately-laced songs.
They gave acoustic versions of their hits, MCC’s, He Thinks He’ll Keep Her, and what they referred to as a good ol’ murder ballad, SC’s, Sunny Came Home, but the real treat was the harmony they brought to each other’s songs—MCC’s deeper base filling in Shawn Colvin’s high register. It would have been nice to hear more of their better-known songs (like the two above), but maybe that’s for another tour!
It was one of those great evenings where the audience felt like they could easily talk to them on stage, and everybody had a good time. There is something to be said for experience, particularly among musicians, who appear to ripen with age—they are at once both sharper and more mellow. The comfort and enjoyment they so obviously derive from playing familiar songs is something that fills the air around us and we get to take home with us.
These are singer-songwriters in the folk tradition blended with county, rock and even a little blues, they play an acoustic tour with just four guitars on stage between them in a very pure set. They share stories from the road and their lives, opening just for a while, the window into how music—and why music is made. Both have albums coming out in June, SC’s All Fall Down and MCC’s Ashes and Roses.
Great timing, since we’re all waiting for something other than Adele (who is wonderful, but will need years of seasoning to be as rich as these two!)
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