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Mary Chapin Carpenter

Party Doll and Other Favorites – 1999 (Columbia)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Given a single disc's limitations, Carpenter has built an ingenious greatest-hits package that simultaneously provides an overview of her decade-long career and a treasure-trove for ardent fans. All four of her #1s are here (including two live versions substituted for studio takes), as well as four of her 12 Top-10s. The rest of this generous 17-song collection includes two new titles, a Mick Jagger cover, the highly sought-after "10,000 Miles" (from the film "Fly Away Home"), and several tracks from non-MCC projects.

Despite the excitement of new material and live tracks, the heart of this collection is Carpenter's determined, empowered anthems. Whether it's the desire of Lucinda Williams' "Passionate Kisses" or the call-to-self-fulfillment of her own "He Thinks He'll Keep Her," Carpenter sings her mind with an empathic clarity and force. Her poetic, autobiographical tale "This Shirt" reveals the extraordinary, interlocking nature of everyone's everyday things.

Given her literate, folky bent, one might be surprised at just how much fun Carpenter can be. She pulls out the stops with Beausoleil for a live take of "Down at the Twist and Shout"; "Shut Up and Kiss Me" and "I Feel Lucky" both exhibit a humorous directness. Though a full retrospective awaits, this collection serves as a well-crafted map of the journey so far taken.