When Mary-Chapin Carpenter played The Met in December 1990, I came to the conclusion there was no justice in the world.
Here was one of the best new songwriting voices on the American scene, and nobody seemed to care. The Met wasn’t much more than half full for Carpenter’s intelligent, passionate and hugely enjoyable set. After two years as a cult attraction, but with no hits, it appeared that things were beginning to fall apart for Carpenter. She announced it was the last show she would be doing with her guitarist and collaborator, John Jennings. She seemed destined to become just one more brilliant singer-songwriter who had failed to find a mass audience.
Well, guess what. There is justice in the world.
No more than a few months after that show, Carpenter had a monster hit with the Cajun-inflected goodtime stomp, “Down at the Twist and Shout.” Suddenly, her outstanding album, “Shooting Straight in the Dark,” which had stalled, went rocketing up the charts. Before long, the entire nation watched her sing “Down at the Twist and Shout” on the Grammy telecast.
Here it is, more than four years later, and she has a bushel of hit songs, including “I Feel Lucky,” “Passionate Kisses,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” “I Take My Chances” and “Shut Up and Kiss Me,” which came from two more outstanding albums, “Come On Come On” and “Stones in the Road.” She is a familiar resident of the No. 1 spot for both songs and albums.
And she has progressed far beyond merely appearing on the Grammy telecasts. Now she wins Grammys, five by last count.
It couldn’t happen to a more deserving artist. Her music combines the confessional honesty of the singer-songwriter with the good-time exuberance of country.
And instead of the 400 or so people who gathered to see her at The Met on that winter night four years ago, she’ll attract about 30 times as many to The Gorge on Saturday.
This is billed as a “full band tour” to distinguish it from last year’s acoustic tour. Her band will be led by none other than John Jennings, who didn’t have to head out for greener pastures after all.
The show will also have a red hot opening act, The Mavericks.
This Miami-born/Nashville-based band has been building a loyal following over the past three years. Its first album, “From Hell to Paradise,” was critically praised but did not produce a hit. Its second album, “What A Crying Shame,” never had a song that rose above No. 18, but just went platinum.
The Mavericks are proving what Carpenter proved before them: Quality will prevail, even if it takes awhile.
The Mavericks have a rockabillybased sound, built from influences that range from Roy Orbison to Johnny Cash to Buck Owens. Lead singer, Raul Malo, gives the group a touch of Latin influence, also. Malo was raised in Miami’s Little Havana, the son of Cuban immigrants.
Country is hardly the musical style of choice in Miami, a city drenched in salsa and disco. Early on, a talent manager told them if they were going to try country music in Miami, they might as well call themselves The Mavericks. So they did.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Mary-Chapin Carpenter Location and time: The Gorge, Saturday, 7 p.m. Tickets: $24.45 to $40.20, available only through Ticketmaster outlets (DJ’s Sound City locations in Spokane), or by calling (509) 735-0500
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