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Carpenter, Yearwood, Richey tag team for a night of fun

Warwick Musical Theatre, Warwick, R.I., Aug. 22, 1996

By Jeffrey B. Remz

WARWICK, RI - A few songs into her set, Trisha Yearwood told the crowd, "This is the most fun that three blonde chicks should be allowed to have."

Sandwiched between opener Kim Richey and closer Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Yearwood proved prophetic.

Yearwood's sentiments were certainly evident throughout.

In fact, compared to most country shows, this was a welcome antidote in many ways.

The songs often dealt with the pains and pangs of love from three strong-willed women. No way were you going to hear a rendition of "Stand By Your Man." "Stand By Your Woman" maybe.

And that was one of the strengths drawn from the nearly three hours of music in a less than stellar setting. Due to the circle-in-the-round, performers did not face you most of the time.

This was a heartfelt night from all three women, all of whom have made a musical mark. Richey is up-and-coming with one disc under her belt. Yearwood's new disc, "Everybody Knows," due Tuesday could catapult her to the higher reaches, and Carpenter, of course, had a quick thrust to the top with her folk/pop sensibilities.

Carpenter's rendition of "She Thinks She'll Keep Him" offered a twist indicative of the mood of the evening. Instead of the woman being in the "typing pool working at minimum wage," she's now made it, in a "swimmng pool sipping lemonade."

In contrast to some of their peers, this was also not a night where slickness reigned through numerous costume changes and frills overwhelming why people came in the first place (Although it must be said that the crowd was rather tame for most of the evening, only lighting up at the very end of Carpenter's set).

Richey, for example, came decked out in striped pants and pointy black shoes, while Carpenter showed up for "work" in jeans.

This was a show where the music mattered most.

Richey started off with an all too-short 25-minute set, kicking into gear on the extended closer "That's Exactly What I Mean."

Richey's songs possess a keen pop sensibility. And her backing band, anchored by guitarist Kenny Vaughan was top notch.

Richey also draws from a winning personality, a bit goofy, but funny.

One feared that Yearwood might trot out the hits since her new disc does not come out until Tuesday. Fortunately, that was not the case at all. A far more comfortable Yearwood was by far stronger than two previous outtings. Her vocals are top notch. She sang with conviction and emotion without overemoting or oversinging.

She mined familiar turf with the opening "Wrong Side of Memphis" and "XXX's and OOO's." But then she belted out "Down On My Knees" with its gospel flavorings on the mark, more powerful than the recorded version. When Yearwood later said, "The Song Remembers When" was one of her favorites, you believed her. The delivery was proof of that.

And fortunately Yearwood musically overhauled her career song, "She's In Love With the Boy," replete with Spanish and reggae influences. It would have been so easy for Yearwood to just sing it like it sounds on disc, just like the fans expected to hear it.

With the new disc at hand, Yearwood also showcased three songs from it during her hour. And despite the audience not knowing at least two of the three, the songs ("Little Hercules," a song about not holding the weight of the world on your shoulders and dedicated to her father and "Everybody Knows") held up well.

The highlight, though, was the new single, "Believe Me Baby (I Lied)," bounding up the charts and written in part by Richey and Angelo, a sharp songwriter and member of her band. Carpenter and Richey came out to sing backing vocals and knocked the song home.

This was a scenario that would rear its head several more times in the show with all three singers on stage. There was a clear camaraderie and comfort zone with purposeful backing vocals often adding that extra kick.

Carpenter's 75-minute performance built steam as it went along. In some ways, the evening was too confining. With three acts on the bill, each played a truncated set.

Carpenter emphasized the harder edge of her music, starting with thge opener "Shut Up and Kiss Me." Guitarist Duke Levine let loose here and throughout the evening.

As if to emphasize the attitude of the evening, Carpenter sang "I Take My Chances."

And she did somewhat, trotting out about four new songs, mainly from her disc due out in October. Highlights included the cute "I Want to be Your Girlfriend" with help from Richey and Yearwood and her new single, "Just Let Me Into Your Heart" from the movie "Tin Cup." That also proved to be the lone embarrassment of the evening. After calling for Richey to come out several times and waiting, Carpenter promptly could not remember the words to the soulful song.

Carpenter tattooed the evening home, though, with separate encores summing up the evening, "The Hard Way" ("Everything we got, we got the hard way") and the playful "Girls With Guitars." Joined by members of the opening acts, the women folk eventually gave most of them the boot off stage allowing the women back to center stage.

Yup, this wasn't your tried-and-true paint by the numbers country, at least not with these three blonde chicks.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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