Yes, Virginia, ‘The Twist and Shout,’ formerly a dance haven in the Elks Lodge in Bethesda, is still alive whenever Mary Chapin Carpenter steps on stage. “Down at the Twist and Shout” was one of the local crowd’s favorites when Mary Chapin and Michael Doucet avec BeauSoleil joined in closing out the first set at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center on Saturday night.
The concert was a mix of old favorites and new surprises by three Grammy winning artists. Mary Chapin Carpenter won five Grammys in the early 1990s. Shawn Colvin won three during the same period. BeauSoleil received its first Grammy in 1997, and scored again in 2008.
Although billed as the opening act, BeauSoleil contributed as much to the concert as Carpenter and Colvin. From the first pass of the bow across the fiddle, toes started tapping. Some fans showed off their dance steps on the lawn to a mostly appreciative crowd. Michael Doucet avec BeauSoleil has kept Cajun music alive and fresh, rather than a fad that passed through the music scene in the late 1980s. Many fans (including the late Alan Lomax) love BeauSoleil’s combination of true-to-the-roots traditional music with other genres without loosing the Cajun base. A fine example was the use of a calypso beat in a reel played before the final two-step. The addition of a second fiddle halfway through their set showed how BeauSoleil has broadened the repertoire but not lost the feel of a Cajun fais-do-do in front of their porch in Louisiana.
The pairing of Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter proved a brilliant delight. When performing as a duo or with one in a supporting role, Colvin’s lighter lighter voice often shimmered over the smokey tone of Carpenter’s. Their opening number, “Catch the Wind” (by Donovan) was a perfect example, as was “Shotgun Down the Avalanche” near the end of the set. The vocal duet with simple guitar by Colvin on “Four Seasons in One Day” was etherial. In some Carpenters’ songs, such as the classic “This Old Shirt,” Colvin adds color and depth to what already was a hometown favorite. During the encore, Carpenter provided marvelous lyrical support for Colvin’s rendition of the Beatles’ “If You Break My Heart.”
“The Hard Way” was a testimony to their friendship of over 30 years. This song is often cited for the lyric, ‘We’ve got two lives, one we’re given, the other we make.” This rang true to Carpenter’s recent troubles and beginning of a new life, which form the basis of her most recent album, Ashes and Roses. Praised by some reviewers and abhorred by others, the presentation of all but one of the cuts from this new album fell flat. The sole exception was “Transcendental Reunion,” which, Carpenter explained, mirrors the beginning of her new life. As she sang, her newfound joy showed in her ever-widening smile and demeanor.
By the clap-o-meter, Carpenter’s older songs, including “Down At The Twist and Shout,” “This Old Shirt,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” and the crowd sing-a-long, “I Feel Lucky,” far outpaced her most recent album.
By contrast, Colvin’s latest album, All Fall Down, provided many strong contributions, including the title track and “Change Is On The Way.” Throughout Colvin’s career her style and subject matter have remained fairly consistent. Early on, she commented that all her songs, except “Sunny Came Home,” a horrific murder story, were breakup songs. The audience’s engagement went sky high when she reprised this Grammy winner. “The Cool Remove,” played in harmony with Carpenter, was another standout.
One of the last songs, a cover of Merle Haggard’s “That’s The Way Love Goes” was a testament to a new life imbued by the pair. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin were musically aligned in their rendition of this old standard. At the same time, it felt as if there was a small sliver of light and air separating the two and highlighting each’s unique contribution.
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes, including a 15-minute intermission and a 20 minute encore set.
Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, and BeauSoleil played for one night only on August 10, 2013 at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap -1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and Information, check their calendar of events.