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*** MARY-CHAPIN CARPENTER, "Come On Come On", Columbia

RECORD RACK

July 12, 1992|RICHARD CROMELIN

Carpenter is country music's kid sister, leaving the glamour to the Rebas and the Naomis while she goes her sensible way. She seems to have a lot on her mind, and even though she's scored such engaging hits as "Down at the Twist and Shout," there's this feeling that she's maybe a little too serious. . . .

Well, not all the time. Her fourth album kicks into overdrive with its fourth song, "I Feel Lucky," an account of a charmed day that has a Chuck Berry momentum and a Jerry Lee Lewis purr near the end--it comes as she flips a coin over her two barroom pursuers, Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yoakam.

With its humor and vibrancy, "Lucky" is the song that jumps out from the pack, but the heart of the album is Carpenter's understated, pensive material: the lapping, melancholy "Rhythm of the Blues," the brisk, buoyant "Passionate Kisses" (by Lucinda Williams) and especially the hushed, haunting title song and "Only a Dream."

As much in the tradition of the '70s singer-songwriter and Dylan-descended folk rock as modern country, "Come On Come On" is an enriching encounter with an array of meaty social and personal issues. Carpenter, who sings in a plain but engaging manner, wrote six of the songs and co-wrote four others--in 1992 Nashville, only Rosanne Cash and K. T. Oslin rival her as all-around creative women.

\o7 Albums are rated on a scale of one asterisk (poor) to four (excellent).

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