7. Mary Chapin Carpenter // Stones in the Road
Draped in a serene, feathery, coffeehouse vocal style, Carpenter’s prominent mainstream albums of the ’90s effectively and miraculously challenged the status quo, as a defiant but soft spoken sharpshooter, among the most adept at her craft. She spins finger-plucked folk songs into colossal confessionals, searing right into your heart. She was determined to prove herself, and between the magical twilight of songs like “Why Walk When You Can Fly,” “House of Cards,” “The End of My Pirate Days” and “The Last Word,” also milking a cool alt-rock into the gentle swing of the music, she sends up a curdling rallying cry. And you can’t help but stand at attention: she draws you into her narrow soundscape with intense aplomb and whiskey-soaked ecstasy.