State Theatre Portland
Mary Chapin Carpenter

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Caitlin Canty

Fri, July 20, 2018

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

State Theatre

Portland, ME

$50, $45, $35 - Reserved Seating

This event is all ages

Buy tickets in person at the Port City Music Hall box office (504 Congress Street) Wednesday-Friday 10AM-5PM, charge by phone at 800-745-3000, or online right here. State Theatre box office will open one hour before doors night of show.

Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Flatland is little aid to contemplation, and so Mary Chapin Carpenter has her own hill.

It’s deep in the Virginia countryside, on a farm that she got for a song. Or rather, for a bunch of songs, and a way of singing and playing them that has taken her around the world and back home, over and again.

Carpenter and those songs have traveled for thirty years, though the songs are the most frequent fliers. They spring from her head and hands, vibrate through tone woods and six steel strings, then find their way into microphones. Then they go forth into the world - they’ve been doing that for thirty years now—even at times when their creator sits at the top of her hill and observes natural wonders both human-made and mysterious.

Sometimes church bells, trees, and seasons marking times gone by. Sometimes starling swells and tidal moons and filled-up eyes. Sometimes everything at once, and sometimes just the sky.

That’s what thirty years brings: Sometimes everything at once, and sometimes just the sky. She knows that now, though knowing takes a long, long time. It’s still hard to know whether everything at once is preferable to just the sky. In halcyon, everything at once times — like when she won country music prizes as vocalist of the year and Grammy awards for all sorts of things — she was reminded to enjoy the moment. But up on the hill, the sky is its own reminder.

Anyway, it’s hard as hell to keep a job for thirty years. It’s cause for commemoration of some sort, and that sort might normally involve nostalgia and trophy-polishing. But nostalgia and trophy- polishing are flatland ideas, and Carpenter has her own hill. Sometimes Just the Sky is not a greatest hits endeavor or a remastered compilation. It’s not a celebration or a souvenir. It is a reimagining of a most unusual nature.

It is a collection of songs written across the decades, recorded in bucolic western England at Real World Studios with the great producer Ethan Johns. Carpenter sat with new and old friends who circled together in a wooden room and made music, in real time. What we hear is precisely what was played and sung, all at once.

There’s a song originally recorded for each of Carpenter’s original studio albums, and then there’s the new song, which was aided and abetted by hillside contemplation and a punk poet’s advice.

“Patti Smith was saying that you don’t have to look far or wide, and it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive or madness in order to find things to soothe you in life, or to be happy about,” she says, sitting at the kitchen table where she writes her songs. “Sometimes just the sky makes everything fall into perspective.”

Up on the hill, at that magic time of day when there is little day remaining, the sky can take on colors that escape linguistic description. A person can feel a strangely comforting smallness amidst the expanse. And thirty years of sublimity, shit storms, and all points in between can boil down to a bemused cosmic shrug.

Yearning makes you who you end up as, more or less
Whatever choice I made that worked out
Was just a lucky guess
Just a lucky guess

Sometimes Just the Sky is about travels of varying sorts, all connected by a writer’s voice that was well-formed by the time it was popularly heard. The album begins with “Heroes and Heroines,” a song written when Carpenter was playing small clubs in the Washington, DC area, and living in spaces bereft of land, much less of hills. The next song, “What Does It Mean To Travel,” was written a million miles later, yet it is clearly of an artistic piece with its generational predecessor.

The whole album is that way, unfolding in ways at once unexpected and undeniable. If any other serious Mary Chapin Carpenter listener had been asked to choose songs for this album, we might not have chosen these songs, and we surely wouldn’t have imagined these presentations. Most of us would have gone with Grammy winners and chart-toppers, singles and sing-alongs. And we would have been wrong for our choosings, not because these aren’t worthy things but because they don’t tell the story, and the story is what surprises, delights, and inspires.

Now, the story isn’t the biography, though the biography is a pretty good story: Folk-inspired, Ivy League-educated club singer, songwriter and guitarist (let’s not ever forget her remarkable guitar playing, with compelling chordal voicings and finger-picking that produces unique sounds from a ubiquitous, traveled-and-trampled instrument) somehow becomes a major label country star not by faking a drawl or a stance but by exploring depths of language and emotion (She’s the only country star to write and sing the word “verdant,” or to use “peripatetic” in an interview).

That’s part of the biography, at least. Then there’s the part about shifting into other musical modes, and touring with childhood heroes like Joan Baez, and enduring other life battles, and emerging from those battles with gratitude and grace.

The biography isn’t the humanity, though, and the humanity is the story, because it’s our story, too. What we have here is a riveting travelogue, from departure to arrival, of a human heart and soul. It involves abundance and the lack thereof. It involves certainty and searching.

It is sung to us softly, because stridence is as helpful to communication as flatland is to contemplation.

It is beautifully and thoughtfully played, and gracefully presented.

It is full of night songs, and inspired by the time of day when there’s little day remaining. It is an arrival that promises departures anew.

Anyway, as we know, it’s hard as hell to keep a job for thirty years. These are battle scars and lucky guesses from the journey. These are postcards, written from the ledges, recorded in the English countryside, and sent with love and intention from Carpenter’s Hill.
Caitlin Canty
Caitlin Canty
Caitlin Canty is an American singer/songwriter whose music carves a line through folk, blues, and country ballads. Her voice was called “casually devastating” by the San Francisco Chronicle and NPR Music describes her songs as having a “haunting urgency.”

Motel Bouquet, Canty’s third record, features ten original songs that hold her darkly radiant voice firmly in the spotlight. Produced by Grammy-nominated Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers) and recorded live over three days in Nashville, the album boasts a band of some of finest musicians in roots music, including fiddler Stuart Duncan and vocalist Aoife O’Donovan. Rolling Stone hails Motel Bouquet as “dreamy and daring” with “poetic lyrics and haunting melodies.”

Since the release of her critically-acclaimed Reckless Skyline in 2015, Canty has put thousands of miles on her songs, circling through the U.S. and Europe. She warmed up stages for The Milk Carton Kids and Gregory Alan Isakov and recorded with longtime collaborators Darlingside and with Down Like Silver, her duo with Peter Bradley Adams. She won the Troubadour songwriting competition at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and her song, “Get Up,” was nominated for Song of the Year in the Folk Alliance International Music Awards. Canty’s original recordings have recently appeared on CBS’s Code Black and on the Netflix original series House of Cards.

Raised in small-town Vermont, the daughter of a school teacher and a house painter, Canty earned her degree in biology in the Berkshires and subsequently moved to New York City. She spent her days in the city working as an environmental sustainability consultant and her nights making music at Lower East Side music halls and bars. In 2009, she quit her job and set out to make music full time. In 2015, she packed up her house plants and her 1939 Recording King guitar and drove to Nashville, TN, which she now calls home.
Venue Information:
State Theatre
609 Congress St
Portland, ME, 04101
http://www.statetheatreportland.com/