Put two iconic artists together and what do you get?
Not always a sublime evening of music, especially when the two vie for accolades. But in this case, two morphed into much more — a sweet and formidable whole. Marc Cohn (in his second appearance with the Center for the Arts, his first this year at the smaller venue in February) and Mary Chapin Carpenter (who appears to want to now be called Mary Chapin since her divorce) practically took the roof off the Vets Hall Friday night.
They were as one, stealing shy little glances, waving at each other during numbers and kidding about sharing a bunk on Cohn’s upcoming wedding anniversary; the two are as obviously comfortable in each other’s musical shoes as they are as “roadies.”
Spectacularly accompanied by old friend and mega-talented Glenn Patchan on keyboards and back-up vocals and Chris Bruce on bass guitar, they opened the evening with a beautifully harmonized Beatles “On Our Way Home,” then shared the stage with “Walk Through This World With Me,” Cohn’s iconic “Walkin’ in Memphis,” The Boxtops’ “Baby Wrote Me A Letter,” and Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.” It was evident in their back and forth that the song clearly expresses the way they feel about each other, at least musically.
Chapin Carpenter’s honest disclosures about her recent illness, loss of a parent and divorce, all fodder for a brand new CD, “Ashes and Roses,” morphed into a riff about how much time had gone by since her hit song “This Shirt,” which she proceeded to sing with much more resonance and meaning than on the original album. Cohn, who shared that his 11th wedding anniversary was the next day, sang the song he sang at his “second and final” wedding, “One Safe Place,” accompanied by his own percussive and dexterous guitar, ending in a duet with Chapin Carpenter so soft and sweet you could almost believe there is such a thing as perfect love. Cohn accompanied himself at the piano on “Silver Thunderbird,” a great rock and roller about a man with “a plan and a pocket comb” written 23 years ago for his first record.
Chapin Carpenter, recently inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, one of only 14 women among hundreds of men to be so honored, wrapped her rich alto around her hits “Stones in the Road” and “The Hard Way,” Cohn’s “Strangers in a Car” and a brand new song, “Hand On My Back,” a celebration of moments of profound connection. Cohn and Chapin Carpenter wrapped up the electric evening with an encore from the Great American Songbook they recently sang at Central Park, including Ervin Drake’s “A Very Good Year,” Mann and Hilliard’s “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” and Mancini and Mercer’s “Moon River,” accompanied by the entire audience.
Both Chapin Carpenter and Cohn, a masterful songwriter with five top-selling albums, have had a “very good year.” Chapin Carpenter won an Emmy Award for her work on Nashville Public Television’s “No Going Back: Women and the War.” Over the course of her career, she has sold more than 13 million records, won five Grammy Awards, two CMA awards and two Academy of Country Music awards for her vocals. Cohn’s most recent, “Join the Parade,” is his most critically acclaimed recording to date, and Rolling Stone has praised, “Cohn has one of rock’s most soulful croons — a rich, immediately recognizable tenor that makes …songs his own.”
Thanks to the Center for the Arts under Julie Baker’s inspired leadership and her dedicated and professional staff, board of directors and volunteers, Nevada County was treated to a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience.
If you aren’t going to the Center to take advantage of its varied and excellent musical offerings, you should. Fall promises to be big. Stay tuned and don’t be left out!
Lynn Wenzel lives in Grass Valley.
They were as one, stealing shy little glances, waving at each other during numbers and kidding about sharing a bunk on Cohn’s upcoming wedding anniversary …