Once upon a time - probably back around 1994ish - I had this Mary Chapin Carpenter mix tape that I had made for my Walkman. It was made up of 90 minutes of songs from her first four albums, and damn but did I play the hell out of it. What I remember most about it is how I would listen to it while I studied at the Iowa Memorial Union. It was kind of a difficult time in my life, one that was full of transitions as perceptions that I had and assumptions I had made were turned upside down and I was forced to reevaluate quite a few things. It was an isolating time that eventually played out okay, but still, at the time, it was hard. I had the tape for years after that winter and spring that it was played ad infinitum, and whenever I listened to it, it always took me back to those times.
That tape has long since been lost - probably thrown away in one of the many great cassette tape purges I've had over the last 10 years. I never even got to make an iTunes playlist out of it, and I know that I could never recapture the tape itself. Sure, I could probably get most of the songs, but there was something magical about the sequencing on that tape, something that I could never hope to recapture. I do remember that the first song was "I Feel Lucky", the last song was "Walking Through Fire" and the first song on side two was "How Do." Beyond that, I can't remember.
I have written many many times before that for me, Chapin's music is like an old friend - a friend who is part melancholy, part introspective, part self-aware, and ultimately utterly amazing. My friend Matt just did a podcast on "timestamp songs" which basically boiled down to songs which were either influential in your life or evoked strong memories of a certain time period. I would have a hard time coming up with specific songs, but I think that Chapin's body of work is like that for me. She evokes such specific emotions, such a specific state of mind.
Those emotions and that state of mind are not always pleasant. I look back on my life 15 years ago and damn, but I was a mess. High maintenance and too worried about most everything. There are still shades of that 22 year old, but mostly he has been banished. And what's great about it is that as I have aged, her music has changed almost in lockstep with me, so that it remains relevant, even though I am very far removed from the lonely kid that fell in love with her music to start with.
But if I ever want to get back in touch with him, all I need do is cue up her music on iTunes, and there I am. It may sound masochistic, but really, it isn't. To know where you're going, you must never forget where you've been.
Most all of Chapin's videos have the embedding disabled on YouTube (rat bastards.) Here's one that doesn't. Naturally, since I'm including it in the post, it was from that time period and on that tape.
And if the woman ever tours anywhere near here, I'm there.