All over “The Things That We Are Made Of,” Mary Chapin Carpenter draws on imagery of hearts that can’t be bound, singing of “leaving safety to chance and reason behind” and “the slightest brush but as powerful too as an electrical storm.” But dismayingly, she seems interested in such sentiments purely as a curiosity, not a guiding principle. That wasn’t always the case; when she demanded passionate kisses years ago, she left no doubt of her convictions. “Map of My Heart” hints at the fire that could be lit underneath, but Carpenter sings as if she’s trying to avoid offense, and — like “Oh Rosetta,” the title track, and too many others — it’s played with such a torpid folk-pop arrangement that it never seems to move. Capitalizing on the deeper resonance of her present-day voice, Carpenter shows how her current direction could work in “Deep Deep Down Heart”; it’s restrained where the rest of the album is soft.
ESSENTIAL “Deep Deep Down Heart“
Mary Chapin Carpenter performs at the Citi Wang Theatre Oct. 8.Marc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com.