Picks and Pans Review: Stones in the Road

updated 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Mary Chapin Carpenter

Although Mary Chapin Carpenter has acquired quite a collection of country-music accolades during her seven-year recording career, her style has had as much in common with Carole King as with Loretta Lynn. Her fifth album, Stones in the Road, is more of the same: yet another thoughtful and meticulous concoction of country, rock, folk and bluegrass.

Her alto never cracks, her simple melodies are fastidious, and her painstaking lyrics are as literate as any Willa Cather novel. Still, Stones in the Road is nearly a stone-cold bore. Carpenter's biggest critical and commercial successes—and, ultimately, best songs—have been loose, mindless foot-tappers like "Down at the Twist & Shout" and "I Feel Lucky," but there are few of those here. Instead the album is bogged down with too many slow, brooding tunes like "The End of My Pirate Days" and "John Doe No. 24," the numbing tale of a blind deaf-mute that features Branford Marsalis on sax. By far the best moment comes midway through the album when Carpenter kicks into cheeky high gear with "Shut Up and Kiss Me." More of such flirtatious frolics might have made Carpenter's Road more fun to travel. (Columbia)

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