Mary Chapin Carpenter

Come Darkness, Come Light Twelve Sngs of Christmas – 2008 (Zoe/Rounder)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Try this one at home: Gather a group of friends around the stereo, put Mary Chapin Carpenter's new CD on, and let it play about half way through. Then take a poll, asking what kind of a CD everybody was listening to. And unless your dinner party was listening to the lyrics closely, they wouldn't have a clue that it's a Christmas CD.

First off, few of these songs are familiar ones; certainly not the ones you hear in a million different variations at the mall. Furthermore, it's awfully quiet. For example, the most familiar track is the closer, Children, Go Where I Send Thee. This is normally a big, stomping church choir workout. Not so in Carpenter's hands, however. Instead, Carpenter nearly whispers its lyrics over unobtrusive acoustic guitar and piano. In summation, this is the sort of album you might want to put on at the end of a long, hard shopping day, so you can wind down, relax and reflect. Carpenter has a sweet, conversational way of singing that goes a long way in setting the scene. And because it's unlikely you're already burned out on these obscure songs, this disc might have staying power year-round.