Hear Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Incisive ‘Something Tamed Something Wild’
Like the Roman god Janus, with an eye trained on both beginnings and endings, Mary Chapin Carpenter opens her new album The Things That We Are Made Of with a song that beautifully sums up where she’s been and sets the stage for what’s yet to come. In “Something Tamed Something Wild,” Carpenter stares into a shoebox full of old letters and gazes at “a map I’ve memorized of everywhere I’ve ever been, and the faces of everyone I loved and left to try again.” As that song’s title and the subsequent tracks on the LP suggest, there is comforting stillness at the heart of movement and something wondrous and unexpected in the familiar. Listen to “Something Tamed Something Wild” below.
The Things That We Are Made Of is the 14th studio LP from Carpenter, who first shot to mainstream country success in the Nineties with a string of hits that included “I Feel Lucky,” “Shut Up and Kiss Me,” and the Grammy-winning cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Passionate Kisses.” “Something Tamed Something Wild” and indeed the entire new album finds the songwriter at her most thoughtful and also at times sweetly whimsical, perfectly capturing the buoyant spirit of her early successes and also serving as a reminder that she remains one of the most grounded, sentient songwriters of her generation — a generation that for the most part regarded the LP as a whole rather than as individual (and disconnected) tracks. With that in mind, Carpenter reveals that she took great pains in making sure the album’s tracks were perfectly sequenced, with “Something Tamed Something Wild” leading the way.
“It was important to me that it be the first song on the record,” Carpenter tells Rolling Stone Country. “I think sequencing is really important. I’m old-school; I still think of the excitement of getting a full album. I still think in those terms when I’m writing… trying to create a particular environment and a thematically-related collection of songs. That’s how I grew up listening to music and how I grew up receiving an artist’s work.”
The song, she explains, is a summation of how events in her life have unfolded and also serves as a declaration of sorts.
“This is what I think after where I’ve been,” she says. “This is how it looks from here. That first song contains the most obvious themes, those being the importance of place, the power of memory, the transformative effect of loss in our lives, how it changes us, how it affects us.”