If you go
› What: Mary Chapin Carpenter
› Where: Walker Theatre inside Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave.
› When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9
› Admission: $85, $75, $55, $45, plus applicable fees
› For more information: 423-757-5580
Mary Chapin Carpenter recently time-traveled.
For her latest album, "Sometimes Just the Sky," the singer-songwriter revisited one song from each of her 12 studio albums after someone pointed out that it had been 30 years since she released her debut, "Hometown Girl."
She wasn't giving herself a trophy to commemorate her simple survival, she says.
"It was more of an artistic adventure that felt very joyous. An experiment, in a way, to see how the passage of time affects you and affects these songs."
And unexpectedly, she says, recording — or re-recording — the songs flung her into the past.
"I would have these moments, when recording, of time travel, of being thrown back to the memory of where I was in my life when I wrote X song and who was in my life at the time. It was emotional like nobody's business."
But yeah, there was a bit of "Holy cow!" here and there, she admits.
"As much as you can time travel back and be back there for a second or two, at the same time it's daunting to think of the years that have passed," she adds. "Sometimes I felt like: 'Bring me a cold cloth so I can cover my face.'"
Carpenter has been busy over those three decades. She has recorded more than 160 songs, virtually all written or co-written by her. She has sold more than 12 million records worldwide and landed 17 Top 20 country hits, including an amazing run of 16 Top 20s in a row from 1989's "How Do" through 1994's "Tender When I Want To Be."
Between 1991 and 1994, she won Grammy awards for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, the only artist to ever accomplish that four-year feat.
With a huge catalog of songs from which to choose, when deciding on the songs for "Sometimes Just the Sky," Carpenter says she picked ones that represented where she was in life at the time she wrote it.
"Those records are a snapshot of your life; each is a different snapshot," she explains. "Years have passed; I'm a different person. I've lived life and gone through so many things."
But flipping through that emotional photo album wasn't a maudlin exercise to retrace the glories of being younger. At 60, "I don't mourn my youth and that tyranny of self-consciousness and caring what the world or what other people think of you," she says. "I've never been happier in my career and my work and never gotten more out of songwriting."
If there is a theme on "Sometimes Just the Sky," it may be one of taking journeys, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. "What Does It Mean To Travel," "One Small Heart," "The Moon and St. Christopher" and "The Calling" all address thoughts of getting outside your bubble or echo chamber, of hitting the road and heading someplace new or different.
"Travel is a metaphor for life," Carpenter says, then paraphrases the philosophy of the late Anthony Bourdain.
"He said the greatest thing you can do is to move through the world and discover the world, to get out of your safe place, whatever that means to someone.
"You've got to walk through the world openhearted; you will miss everything with your heart shuttered."
Email Shawn Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.