The Calling will test your emotions, making you feel glowing and comfortable, then useless and helpless.
American country music has generally become a field where vacuous lyrics are set to predictable tunes and marketed more via artist image than challenging musical content. Now, Chapin Carpenter shows how country singers and writers can live with their eyes open.
The title-track is a stark lilting waltz-time effort on which Carpenter sounds off about preachers, but adds hope for the lost. ‘We’re All Right’ is a cute nod to sudsy pop radio, but the uptempo ‘Your Life Story’ is built on a solid rock beat. The socially-aware ‘On With The Song’ has chiming guitars and kicks right-wing Christians up the ass. The piano-led ‘Closer And Closer Apart’ is just OK, but on the uplifting ‘Why Shouldn’t We’ she urges us to personal action. If the sparse 'Twilight' has a live, forlorn feel to its simple elegance, the zestful ‘It Must Have Happened’ transcends its workmanlike formula. The delicate 'On And On It Goes' has a die-for melody, and looks at life’s quirky moments. But the jewel in the crown is ‘Houston’, a heartaching song about people reduced to nomads by Hurricane Katrina and George Bush. “I woke up here in Houston, didn’t even know my name,” she sings, and your conscience melts.
The Calling will test your emotions, making you feel glowing and comfortable, then useless and helpless. If only to counteract the vitriol the Dixie Chicks attracted from the redneck constituency, country music needs provocative albums like this.