A string of platinum albums, chart-topping singles, and an unprecedented series of four consecutive Grammy awards all signalled Mary Chapin Carpenter’s meteoric rise into the foremost ranks of American country’s female stars in the ‘90s. So emphatic was her success that even if she had stopped recording and playing then, her place in the pantheon alongside names like Emmylou Harris and Loretta Lynn would have been indelible, secured by her lustrous voice and by some of the most touching songs in country’s vast canon. Instead, she continued to explore, moving beyond a traditional country sound in directions less commercially-rewarded but every bit as acclaimed.
But it was through a series of personal tragedies that Carpenter came to record Ashes and Roses, possibly the most powerful album of her career. The stunning beauty of this collection was born of a series of personal tragedies that struck the singer-songwriter in recent years: a divorce, the death of her father from a lingering illness, and finally a pulmonary embolism that came frighteningly close to ending Carpenter’s own life. With profound emotional courage, she has fashioned those losses and traumas into both her and the world’s musical gain in a set of deeply personal and atmospheric songs destined to be one of the most definitive musical statements of this year – or indeed any year – in roots music.