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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Like her near contemporary Nanci Griffith, Mary Chapin Carpenter writes highly literate songs that are odes to introspection, confession, catharsis and loss. In 2007 she suffered a pulmonary embolism, her father died and she went through a divorce. The album seems to be a reflection upon those troubled times.

It is a gentle, mainly acoustic, work and she uses the voice and phrasing of a folk singer to explore the darker corners of the soul. As she explains in "The Swords We Carried"

"And grief became my company, pain so deep I could not breathe,
All betrayal is like dying in slow motion".

In "Chasing What's Already Gone" her father appears in a dream to tell her "You're gonna be alright", but she felt as empty as she'd ever been:

"Ashes and roses and hearts that break
I tried so hard to be strong
But maybe my worries were not my first mistake
I'm chasing what's already gone".

The lyrics are illuminated by a magical arrangement of Hammond B3, mandolin, acoustic guitars and piano. But as well as the lyrical content this is also an album of exquisite melodies and deliberately understated arrangements. A simple piano accompaniment on "Jericho" from producer Sonny Rollings is perfect as she confides:

"And you can't hear me yet, listening takes a long, long time,
And I've so much to tell, but words die on these lips of mine".

Lyrics, melody and musicianship combine beautifully in "I Tried Going West":

"A letter a day I wrote back to you
But not one you ever received
'cause I can't stand the man that lies like you do
And I can't bear a woman who bleeds".

Because Mary's voice is so intrinsic to the spirit of the self penned songs the duet with James Taylor on "Soul Companion" doesn't contribute as much to the album as perhaps it should. But that is a minor quibble about an album that is a combination of lyrical and musical perfection.
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on 20 November 2012
I find this new album by Mary Chapin Carpenter very moving, beautiful and poignant. it is a wonderfully crafted and produced album from a great song-writer. I had not really listened to Mary's songs before even though she had been recommended to me by others in the past. I tended to shy away from what I thought was 'country' music. However the title of Mary's album and my own personal life at this time seem to have searched each other out; hence a most wonderful discovery. I wholly recommend this album to all who like good, reflective song-writing, accoustically produced, written from the heart and soul of a lady with a beautiful voice. Ashes and Roses is my album of 2012.
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on 2 July 2012
I have loved all of Mary's most recent albums from `Between Here And Gone' through to 2010's `Age Of Miracles' and this latest release doesn't disappoint. The album comprises mainly gentle, acoustic ballads which showcase perfectly Mary's talents as a singer and storyteller. I have to admit this one took a little longer than its predecessors to get under my skin but after several listens the melodies and lyrics really do shine through.

It's hard to pick a favourite track but the combination of Mary and James Taylor on `Soul Companion' is definitely a highlight along with the more upbeat opener 'Transcendal Reunion'.

Tasteful music, tastefully packaged for the discerning listener.
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on 3 November 2016
MCC albums tend to be musically similar and if you like one you'll probably like them all (although personally I don't care for Come on, Come on - which is jarringly up tempo). Ashes and Roses wears those same comfortable clothes, although like Stones in the Road it sits a little above the rest. Overall it's my favourite MCC, thus the five stars, although by a head and not a country mile.
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on 13 June 2014
This is the album - for me - where Mary feels back on top of her form and supremely confident of her own talents, without ever sounding smug or self-satisfied. She knows better than to do that. In a way it's a one-idea album - you can't change your past, don't beat yourself up about it, but you can't prevent memories resurfacing - but all the songs are deep, genuine and heartfelt. I hear she's doing an album and tour with an orchestra. That may be because she feels she's taken her small, intimate band sound as far as she can, at least for a while and that may be true cos she's certainly put the band to best use here. Mary's disarming contralto voice has got deeper with age, but she sure does it for me! A huge talent who got better - and sexier - with the passage of time.
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on 11 July 2012
It has been interesting reading the negative reviews of this album. Apologies for sounding sexist but they have almost exclusively been written by men. The main gripe is that the sadness conveyed in some of these songs is unrelenting and that there is a paucity of strong melodies-songs often sounding the same. Well I guess you may have to really listen to this record, like more than a couple of times, before passing comment. Maybe if you are a man you need to get in touch with your emotions because boy there are some deep ones amongst these songs. Deep emotions but beautifully expressed. It isn't instantly hummable, it contains no 'He Thinks He'll Keep Her', 'Middle Ground" type of anthem; such an attempt wouldn't ring true anyway. What we do get is the most beautiful record conveying some deep sadness, grace and hope written and delivered in a way that speaks volumes for this artist's integrity. And with a few listens there are plenty of glorious and memorable melodies here. There isn't anything even resembling a duff track. The writing, as ever, is highly literate, she really does use words and couch phrases in the most poetic way. There are too many examples to quote but the album ends with Jericho, beautiful poetry to Matt Rollins piano. 'You can't see me yet, seeing takes a long, long time, from the outside in, measuring each shift and sigh. But as you let your eyes adjust, to the darkness deep within. Sifting through this ash and dust. We are the places that we've been. You can't hear me yet, listening takes a long, long time, and I've so much to tell, but words die on these lips of mine......' Well there are enough words that didn't die to make this a brilliant record.
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on 6 July 2012
The problem for MCC is that fans like me will compare any new release to the brilliant "Between here and gone". For me there have been great moments on albums since then but how do you better perfection? Music is very personal, but for me, I just can't think of a more perfect album than "Between here and gone". Ashes and Roses contains some beautiful songs but also a few that do nothing for me. All nice enough and easy listening but it's not a classic. Chasing what's already gone and I tried to go west are personal favourites, though. I was tempted to give this three stars but I expect it to grow on me. It is very reflective and introspective and personally I like that but some of the songs just passed me by. That said, her voice is beyond compare and this is particularly evident on songs like Don't need much to be happy. I am convinced MCC has another classic album left in her but this is more solid than spectacular.
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on 4 April 2014
This is a really lovely album, full of well crafted songs which are beautifully played and produced. While it might seem a liitle introspective and downbeat to some, for me, it stands up well to Mary's better known and more succesful albums. My favourite track is "Chasing What's Already Gone". If you fancy a listen before you buy, there are a number of the songs on YouTube and extracts from the excellent series' of Transatlantic Sessions.
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on 9 April 2016
The BBC Review accompanying this album states; "This profoundly personal album is unlikely to woo passers-by, but loyal, long-time admirers will adore it". Well, having never listened to MCC until now, I would probably qualify as a "passer-by" and I love it.
Written and recorded, I believe, at a very low part of her life, with family bereavement, illness and separation being the catalysts, I feel this album is a masterpiece. Some artistes are well-known to be at their best when hit by these life-changing events, and this album contains such intense emotions that the completion of it must have been hugely cathartic to Ms CC.
True, it can be dark, and if you're expecting something bright and breezy, it may be best to look elsewhere for your entertainment. But in my case it's gone directly into my top 5 albums in this genre.
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on 8 December 2012
I bought this having read a review in a daily newspaper. Previously I had not heard of Mary. She has a wonderful melodious voice and her lyrics are, at times, very moving.
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