Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A City Woman Takes Up Those Country Tunes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A City Woman Takes Up Those Country Tunes

Article excerpt

COUNTRY music ain't just about "drinkin' and cheatin no more. That's the lowdown from singer Mary-Chapin Carpenter, who, among other young performers, is putting a hip, contemporary stamp on country music's cowboy image.

Though still playing second fiddle to established favorites like Randy Travis and the Judds, a new generation of singers is snatching up both country and pop listeners: Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Ms. Carpenter, and others. They will be a strong presence among the luminaries spotlighted tomorrow night at the 25th Annual Country Music Association Awards (CBS-TV, 9 p.m. EST), broadcast live from the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville.

Country music has broadened in its appeal, thanks to increasing numbers of break-the-mold acts from Nashville and mainstream pop artists like Bonnie Raitt and Chris Isaak who don't hide their cowboy boots and accents. Last week, Garth Brooks became the first country act to debut at No. 1 on Billboard's top 200 albums chart - pushing out heavy metal band Metallica. Young urban professionals, searching for that perfect mix of nostalgia and trendiness, are cocking their ears to country music's singable melodies and new "sophisticated" lyrics.

Nominated this year for CMA's Horizon Award, Carpenter is a wholesome-faced songwriter from Washington D.C. who seems to like Cajun ditties as much as rock-and-roll. Her ballads, backed by meandering piano lines and rich acoustic guitar work, would please the staunchest folk-music lover or even a New Age fan.

"There's not a stereotyped country music artist or country music listener anymore," says Carpenter, who has produced three albums on the Columbia label. Her latest, "Shooting Straight in the Dark," has been on Billboard's top country albums chart for 47 weeks.

"There's still a certain amount of reliance in country music on the horrible cliches of drinking and cheating," Ms. Carpenter says in a phone interview. But there are growing amounts of music "dealing with real people and real situations," she adds.

Carpenter's own lyrics range from discussing the complexities of romance, to literary allusions to Eudora Welty, to reflections on the ups and downs of being a single working woman. …

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