Elle Carpenter’s music career is an exercise in diversity.
A Vermont native, one-time Los Angeles resident, actress, musician and now Durango local, Carpenter has been writing songs since she was 19. Her recording career includes four album releases, and her latest, “Life Just Happens to You,” came out this week.
Carpenter will celebrate with a Sunday show at Ska Brewing Co. Performing with Carpenter, who plays guitar and sings, will be Caitlin Cannon on back-up vocals, Kate Willyard on cahon and vocals and Alissa Wolf on fiddle.
“My experience with songwriting is that I don’t want to limit myself to one genre. Some of my past albums truly reflect that,” Carpenter said in a recent interview. “A lot of people wanted to tell me what to do in L.A. They’d say, ‘Pick a sound, and stick with it,’ and I didn’t want to do that. In the past, you’ll hear rock ’n’ roll, folk, Americana, a little bit of everything. It was all different forms of expression.”
File this one under “folk.” It began as an unplugged effort to reflect her live solo performances and grew into adding some of her favorite acoustic instruments.
The result is a collection of polished Americana and pop in the vein of Mary Chapin Carpenter, an ear-friendly gateway into Americana. There are pop-y love songs with vague twang that harken some AM-radio gold. It’s also a bit of a concept album.
“It’s my first album which tells a true story, from beginning to end,” Carpenter said. “It progresses through different stages of life, finally ending in happiness, hope and acceptance of the future. I leave the rest open to audience-interpretation.”
It’s also a throwback to the sounds of her youth.
Whether you’re a music fan or not, we all have musical opinions formed from a soundtrack of our youth usually dictated by our parents.
For some, it may be the Beatles; for others, those auditory memories may stretch back further.
For Carpenter, it’s the folk music that filled the air around her Vermont home. It’s why she covered Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” on her latest and why this album leans toward the folk world.
While some musicians release a record and look ahead to the next, Carpenter is going to treat this record like an old family photo album.
“It’s so close to home, and in my heart; it’s folk and Americana and even a little country. I want to celebrate it as long as I can,” Carpenter said. “I’ll be writing music, and when the next album comes along, it will. But for now, I really want to celebrate this one and enjoy returning to home, returning to folk.”
Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.