October 28, 1996 12:00 PM

Mary Chapin Carpenter

True to her name, Carpenter relies on trusty tools—evocative lyrics, foot-stomping melodies and a charismatic delivery—to render these 12 mostly winning and well-crafted songs. Picking up where her last, 1994 album, the more than 2 million-selling Stones in the Road, left off, Carpenter returns to the locale where she seems most at home: the harrowing but often exhilarating precipices of love.

Proving that she just may be country music’s answer to pop laureate Joni Mitchell, the five-time Grammy winner essays sonic short stories about broken hearts (“I Can See It Now”), intoxicating love (“I Want to Be Your Girlfriend”) and, in the title track, self-empowerment. On the ballad “That’s Real,” a woman delivers her poignant plea for love: “How far can I crawl out on this limb/ There’s so far to fall, and here comes the wind.”

Carpenter cleverly mixes it up on this, her sixth album since her 1987 recording debut. For every blazing torch song there’s a rustic rocker bearing the deep-fried chops that, to borrow from the CD’s title, anchor her own place in the world. (Columbia Nashville)

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