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Carpenter doesn’t try to top last success

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Mary Chapin Carpenter took more than four years to release her latest studio album, "Time*Sex*Love*". But she's not worried about the trends in the business. In fact, she's right where she wants to be.

"I took my time this time for the new album," Carpenter said during a phone call from a stop in Spokane, Wash. "I took the time to come up with songs that I loved. And it was a very relaxing and enjoyable time in the studio."

Carpenter will play Thanksgiving Point's Waterfall Amphitheater on Saturday, July 28. Show time is 8 p.m. Steve Earle will also perform. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, or by calling 325-SEAT.

Carpenter recorded the new album — the full title is actually "Time Is the Great Gift; Sex Is the Great Equalizer; Love Is the Great Mystery," a quote culled from her guitarist/co-producer John Jennings — at Air Lyndhurst studios in London. "I wanted to go to a place I had never recorded before," she said of the choice to go to England. "It was a great time."

Although Carpenter's last album, "A Place in This World," gained critical acclaim, the singer/songwriter didn't worry about following it up. She decided to release a collection or rarities and live hits, titled "Party Doll and Other Favorites." "I don't ever think of topping my last album," she said. "I like to think my songs are more focused on substance than popularity. I don't want a hit to dictate how I will write the next song.

"Each of my albums are like a moment in time for me. I take stock in my music. I don't want to write new songs about old feelings that are left over from my previous albums."

In keeping with that philosophy, Carpenter thinks paying attention to music fads are counter-productive. "I don't care whether something's in fashion or if it's not. I just write songs that I think are good. And I record the ones I love."

Staying true to her craft is what makes the job enjoyable, she said. "This whole thing has been nothing but a wonderful thrill," said Carpenter, who has won five Grammy Awards and four Best Female Vocalist awards since she debuted with "Hometown Girl" in 1987. "I have a great bunch of people in the band, and it's a very positive outing. I'm really feeling it this time."

E-mail: scott@desnews.com