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Amid wicked rumors that her country pop powers are starting to flatline and late-night Cheeto runs to a D.C. 7-Eleven are padding her waistline, local recluse Mary Chapin Carpenter releases A Place in the World, an uneven, often cookie-cutter attempt to please everyone but thrill no one. The creativity that spawned such catchy treasures as “Going Out Tonight,” “I Feel Lucky,” and “Down at the Twist and Shout” is nowhere to be found. In fact, locating a big hit in this 12-track mess will be a chore. The album opens with a midtempo, altogether safe “Keeping the Faith,” but its follow-up, “Hero in Your Own Hometown,” sounds like the kind of tripe Lee Greenwood would sing. “I Want to Be Your Girlfriend” and “Let Me Into Your Heart” aren’t bad songs, just hopelessly derivative: The former leans heavily on ’50s rock ‘n’ roll simplicity, and the latter sounds like a twangy take on “In the Midnight Hour.” Only on “Naked to the Eye” and “The Better to Dream of You” does Chapin Carpenter showcase the sing-along spunk that propelled her to the heights she’s now slipping from. Heartbreaker Benmont Tench sits in on several cuts, adding clever piano touches and rare bright spots to otherwise middle-of-the-road tunes. With her crossover attempts now misfiring so wildly, on her next album Chapin Carpenter needs a little inspiration and a helluva lot more spark.—Sean Daly