Mary Chapin Carpenter

Country/folk singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter is scheduled to issue her 7th album, Party Doll, in May, when she also plans to begin a supporting tour. The LP will include a few new songs, previously issued album tracks, live versions of her hits and rarities.

In addition, Carpenter is one of several major female artists (along with Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Osborne, Natalie Merchant, Sinead O' Connor, and others) to sing on the Chieftains' latest LP, Tears of Stone, due this week.

Carpenter was born 41 years ago today in Princeton, N.J., to a Life magazine executive and his wife. She grew up loving the music of Woody Guthrie, the Beatles and Judy Collins. Upon high school graduation, Carpenter's father urged her to sing at an open-mic day at a local bar. This experience brought her confidence and, while she studied U.S. civilization at Brown University, Carpenter continued to sing in clubs.

After moving to Washington, Carpenter began performing her own compositions and won local music awards before signing with Columbia Records. Although critics loved Carpenter's 1988 debut, Hometown Girl, for its vivid, deeply felt country-folk, Carpenter didn't hit it off with record buyers until the follow-up.

State of the Heart (1989) produced two top-10 country hits, "Never Had It So Good" and "Quittin' Time." Carpenter was named the Academy of Country Music's Best New Female Vocalist that year.

Shooting Straight In The Dark (1990) spawned the #2 country smash "Down at the Twist and Shout," which began Carpenter's long string of Grammy Awards. Two years later, Come On Come On yielded an unbelievable seven country hit singles. One of its tracks, "I Feel Lucky," was another Grammy winner for Carpenter. Another cut, Lucinda Williams' "Passionate Kisses" (RealAudio excerpt of Williams' version), went to #4 on Billboard's country singles chart.

Stones in the Road, Carpenter's 1994 offering, featured such big names as Trisha Yearwood, Shawn Colvin, Kenny Aronoff, Benmont Tench (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), and Branford Marsalis. The LP won a Grammy for Best Country Album and produced "Shut Up and Kiss Me," which netted Carpenter yet another Grammy for Best Female Country Vocalist.

Carpenter's most recent album is 1996's Place In The World. Despite being one of many folk-influenced country artists to emerge in the last decade, Carpenter is among the few to earn the respect of the country music establishment in Nashville and become a hit with the younger record-buying public.

Other birthdays: Nina Simone, 66; Jerry Harrison (Modern Lovers, Talking Heads), 50; Jean-Jacques Burnel (Stranglers), 47; Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate), 39; Ranking Roger (English Beat, General Public), 38; Mark Arm (Mudhoney), 37; Jennifer Love Hewitt, 20.