The distinct register of Carrie Newcomer's buttersmooth throaty alto singing voice immediately separates her from the folk/pop pack. The singer/songwriter from Indiana visited Club Passim in Cambridge, MA on the second stop of her tour to promote her new CD "The Geography of Light."
To see lyrics, listen to clips of her music, and find out more about what makes her tick ( and sing) visit her website at http://www.carrienewcomer.com
Club Passim, Cambridge, MA, February 21, 2008
Gary Walters on Kurzweil electric piano
Carrie Newcomer’s singing voice is one of those “Beam me up, Scotty” instruments that seems to transport a listener into a state of grace. After the first few minutes of being sonically bathed by her honey rich alto, a listener’ sits back, involuntarily releases tension in the shoulders, and smiles. On a recent night at the venerable Club Passim in Cambridge, MA an audience was about to hear 75 minutes of “the world according to Carrie”.
She writes the music as well as she sings it. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, somewhere in Newcomer’s music you can find universal truths sketched in small details of everyday life. She’s a perfect antidote to the noise all around us - unsettling world crises, economic recession, random acts of violence, and the chatter of talk radio.
She’s no Pollyanna, though, and is not blind to loss, grief, or injustice. She just counters it by putting lyrics and melody to the indomitable spirit that can endure it, survive it and gather strength from it.
“I know that we have failed,
But I’ve seen that we can fly.
There’s goodness on this earth that will not die.”
she sings in “A Mean Kind of Justice.”
It takes confidence, talent and deeply rooted beliefs to put this stuff over.
With shoulder length auburn hair that matches the amber waves of grain of her native Indiana, Carrie Newcomer ‘s songbook is pure heartland. Expect rich melodies, wry guitar picking and echoes of folk, country, rock,and gospel traditions.
The song “Betty’s Diner” encapsulated the character of an entire town and Newcomer’s sensibilities as a songwriter. The song’s chorus shows an eye for detail that melds time, place, and the human condition, in which ‘despair and hope sit face to face.’
“…here we are all in one place
the wants and wounds of the human race
despair and hope sit face to face
when you come in from the cold
Let her fill your cup with something kind
eggs and toast like bread and wine…”
Club Passim was the second stop of her tour to promote “The Geography of Light,” her eleventh CD for Rounder Records. Her songs have been inspired by the poetry and stories she’s written, contacts with other writers, and her Quaker faith. But just as often, they’re inspired by observing what’s right under her nose, giving the songs a spinning-straw-into-gold quality
The axis of many of her songs is personal observation, what she calls ‘paying attention’ the world around her. Geodes are commonplace sights around her southern Indiana home, bumpy gray stones on the outside, with gorgeous crystal formations in their centers.
“You cant always tell one from the other.
And it’s best not to judge a book by its tattered cover.
I have found when I tried or looked deeper inside.
What appears unadorned might be wondrously formed.
You cant always tell but sometimes you just know.”
Underlying the philosophic, reflective tone of this album is a sense of affirmation.
“Leaves don’t drop, they just let go,
And make a place for seeds to grow, ” she sings on “Leaves Don’t Drop.”
For her, “There is a song at the center of things,” including her dreams, reading list, and personal experience.
“I’ve come to believe that mystery is as near as my front porch," Newcomer says when she introduces “There Is A Tree”, and proclaims,
“I’m the fool whose life’s been spent
Between what’s said and what is meant.”
When the set threatened to slide into sonorous monotony, Newcomer hauled out goofy upbeat songs like “Bowling Alley Baby” and “E-mail”. The songstress had all of us singing the “Don’t Hit Send” chorus and chuckling at her comment “Merlot and email don’t mix well.”
“Why do I do this, I ask myself, “ she ponders before her last encore number.
Her answer, “You get where you want to go but rarely where you thought you’d be.”
That just might have the makings of a future song.
Photo courtesy of Carrie Newcomer's web site