Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 78, A Happy Anniversary, and our Road Trip’s Sweet Nashville Ending

This week is the anniversary of our first road trip to make The 78 Project Movie. Thinking about the year as a whole, there has been such a wonderful symmetry to our experiences. The first and last trips both finished in Tennessee, and each trip has been filled with bright, unexpected moments. It felt this week as if we had truly come full circle, and we wanted to celebrate the first recording from our very first road trip made with the perfect person to set the tone for what would come during the year that followed.

Mary Chapin Carpenter was a headliner at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and she offered to spend the afternoon before her set making a record with us in her tour bus.  The most gracious host that she is, she not only invited us with all of our gear aboard her home away from home, she also let us turn off her air conditioning so that it wouldn’t interfere with the recording and serenely braved the August heat. Mary Chapin’s nature is graceful, and her performance was powerful, a combination that mesmerized and awed us.  She sang “The Water is Wide” with the sure, patient voice and agile finger-picking of a person who has always known a song.

For our last two days recording this week in Nashville, we were thinking so much about how far we’ve traveled and of all the wonderful people we’ve gotten to know.  In part because our last two musicians were so kind and generous, and in part because they all have been.

In Nashville, as in Memphis, we felt cozy and at home.  Infinitely welcoming person that he is, Jim Lauderdale made us feel even more so.  He gave us the run of a beautiful house from the 1890s, and a heartbreakingly gorgeous a capella performance of “Before This Time Another Year”.  It’s no wonder that Jim is a constant collaborator. His musicality is superb, and he himself is the kindest of souls.

We always say that our last day of each trip always brings a wonderful surprise, and it remains true. Each trip as we’ve spent our last afternoon making a record, something magical has occurred, and this last day in Nashville was no different.  The Secret Sisters had arranged for us to meet in the Lindsley Street Church of Christ, and everything about the moment was beautiful. Lovely, real life sisters Laura and Lydia, their fluttery, haunting voices in tight sibling harmony, the light through the stained glass, the sounds dispersing through the air all the way up to the ceiling.  When they sang “In the Sweet By and By” and an original called “Little Again,” they invoked the timeless closeness of family.  And during the giddy playback, they overflowed with the fresh energy of new experiences.

We drove out of Nashville as happy as we could ever be. The end of our last road trip is the beginning of everything that comes next for The 78 Project.  We will edit our movie, continue making our web series, and feel fortunate every day that our work helps to bring many, many more singular one-take recordings to life.

 

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