The Things That We Are Made Of
Reviewed by: Jane Roser
With over 14 million records sold, five Grammy Awards, two CMA awards and two Academy of Country Music Awards, Mary Chapin Carpenter needs no introduction.
Hits like “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and “Passionate Kisses” put her on the map in the 1990s and she has since collaborated with iconic artists such as Joan Baez, Trisha Yearwood and Cyndi Lauper. The Things That We Are Made Of is her latest, great achievement and a reminder as to why Carpenter is such a prolific poet and artist. Produced by Grammy Award-winning Dave Cobb and featuring musicians Annie Clements (bass), Brian Allen (bass), Chris Powell (drums), Mike Webb (piano, organ) and Jimmy Wallace (piano, organ), the record was recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium and Low Country Sound studios. It features eleven songs, each with very relatable human themes of loss, despair, comfort and hope.
“What Does It Mean To Travel” delves into the freedoms, fears and joys while journeying on a trip and the possibility of leaving your persona at home to become someone else while on the road. One can’t help but yearn for adventure and discovery listening to it.
“The Middle Ages” is a very honest song about growing older and the choices that we make. For many of us who are at a certain age, it really puts those feelings bare on a platter for all to see. “And some come to a place of reckoning/try to fix what they find/I arrived with the questions still beckoning in the back of my mind.” I must have played this song at least a dozen times because I totally got it. So many worries and fears that you had when you were younger; you wind up setting those anxieties aside because they just don’t matter anymore.
“Hand On My Back” will knock the wind out of you with its introspective look back at one’s hopes, dreams and regrets: “When I was younger how I took my time/Folly and wisdom form points on a line/From one to another with space in between/For the lessons you learn and the dreams that you dream/But tell me what happens when the dreams don’t come true/How you overcome some things until they overtake you.”
The Things That We Are Made Of is a very focused, poetic album in which Carpenter so eloquently expresses universal feelings that we all have. It’s profound and heartbreaking, yet comforting in its realization of how close these songs mirror our own inner thoughts and emotions. Maybe the reason we are sometimes pushed to our limit; to the point that hopelessness is so palatable that you can almost taste it, is because the heavens have greater faith in us than we have in ourselves. Carpenter reminds us that we can believe in ourselves, we can shape our future and that we don’t have to waste our time and energy regretting the life we didn’t lead instead of focusing on the one that we have.