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Album Review

Mary Chapin Carpetner, 'The Age of Miracles'

April 26, 2010

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There’s an easy-listening elegance to these tracks, but whatever happened to the fun in Mary Chapin Carpenter’s music? Gone is the spirit of early hits “I Feel Lucky’’ and “Down at the Twist and Shout,’’ which once put her on the country music charts. She is more resolutely a folk singer now, but way too mellow for some fans. This album is extremely reflective — she wrote it after suffering a life-threatening pulmonary embolism in 2007 — but it’s not her best work. Her voice is still pure and graceful, and her viewpoint is still optimistic, but there’s a noticeable lack of energy in these ballad-heavy songs. The better songs are topical: “4 June 1989’’ recalls the Tiananmen protest in China; and “The Age of Miracles’’ references everything from Hurricane Katrina to the Buddhist monks in Burma. The overall sound is quietly intimate and pretty (Boston’s Duke Levine adds his modest brilliance on electric guitar), but one longs for Carpenter to break out a bit. She finally does on “The Way I Feel,’’ a road song that mentions listening to Tom Petty while cruising down the highway. Maybe she should listen to more Petty and add some of that energy to her next record. (Out tomorrow) STEVE MORSE

ESSENTIAL “The Way I Feel’’

Mary Chapin Carpenter plays Symphony Hall on June 27.