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Three years ago the country-folk singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter was lying on an emergency room gurney, terrified by a sharp pain in her chest that was so bad that she had cut short a tour to return home to her farm near Charlottesville, Va.
Staring at the ceiling and struggling for breath, she felt sudden relief from a friendly face. “I remember this doctor leaned over me, and he said in the most gentle, comforting way: ‘We found it. It’s a pulmonary embolism. We know what it is,’ ” she said. “An embolism had shattered in my lungs.”
During an interview at the chic private club Norwood in Chelsea, Ms. Carpenter, 52, wiped away tears, seemingly surprised at how much the memory of her brush with death still affected her. Six months after the embolism was treated, she began writing songs, and for the next two and a half years she slowly pieced together her new 12-song album, “The Age of Miracles,” which was released on Rounder last week.
But the work is not steeped in songs about bouncing back from tragedy or platitudes about lessons learned. Ms. Carpenter, who knows her way around a dance number, turns sadness into an exhilarating experience.
“The song ‘Iceland’ is the closest to describing the feelings I had of loss and darkness and disconnection after the embolism,” she said, referring to its images of icy cliffs and barren landscapes. The final track, “The Way I Feel,” an upbeat push toward the future, may be the most evocative example of her emotional recovery.
“I deliberately placed that song at the end because it addresses the strength and resilience that this album is about,” Ms. Carpenter said. “It’s about driving by yourself at night in the dark, feeling free, having the windows rolled down and having nobody know who you are — sort of destination unknown.”