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A guiding light through the darkness


Mary Chapin Carpenter

The Calling
Essential: "It Must Have Happened"

Only a singer-songwriter with the force and clarity of Mary Chapin Carpenter could make nihilism sound so cheery. With her warm, rich voice now weathered like fine wood, Carpenter sings of doubt, failure, and darkness, and manages to sound buoyant and hopeful. "The Calling," her 11th album, taps into our existential anxiety. There are "no road maps, no signposts, no North Star, no lifeboats, no miracles," the five-time Grammy winner tells us on "We're All Right." "The Calling" lacks the humor and twang of Carpenter's mega album "Come On, Come On," and any doubts that Carpenter has abandoned her country roots will be settled by the rollicking, in-your-face anthem "On With the Song," dedicated to the Dixie Chicks. Mostly, Carpenter shows that the hard path is worth the journey. [Stephanie Schorow]

Mary Chapin Carpenter plays at Northampton's Calvin Theater on Saturday and at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, N.H., on Sunday.