MUSIC: A Woman's Wit and Heart

On a new CD, Mary Chapin Carpenter works the dark corners

Chapin country is a pretty, melancholy place; sadness hides behind the lace curtains. It's on the borderline between love and loss, where a lover's rancor is so delicately phrased that it sounds like sisterly advice. Everyone is tyrannized by memories -- of a lonely childhood, of words said and chances missed, of a first love whose sweetness makes everything that follows seem both tame and tawdry. Around here, folks smile to keep from screaming.

The setting created by the songs of Mary Chapin Carpenter is more haunting than your typical country-singer territory. Yet that's her landscape, and Carpenter looks fetching in...

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