Carrie Newcomer's New Album Brings Hope in Hard Times
Throughout the mean political season of 2016, there has been a strange and restless national discontent.
But not for prairie mystic Carrie Newcomer. Her new album, The Beautiful Not-Yet, gently directs us to the vulnerable places of the heart to find comfort and strength. Her songs point to the ordinary magic of nature as they nurture our singular lives and lead us to communion with each other. This is where she asks us to find sanctuary.
For Newcomer, finds her connection in the natural world.
In a recent phone conversation she said
"It is in the early spring time when the last snow has gone and the first buds have not yet opened. Everyone yearns for the lush and the green of spring and summer, but there was this moment when I was walking when the light was coming through the trees unencumbered in a way that doesn't happen any other time of year. The world was just on the edge of everything opening, almost trembling with that feeling of almost, but not yet."
It is a feeling that can only come about with a deep sense of mindfulness. For Newcomer, a walk in the forest in Southern Indiana where she lives illuminated its way into the title song, "The Beautiful Not Yet." As she writes on her website:
"We live in an ever-accelerating goal-oriented world. It is easy to become distracted and restless. We are not who we were, and yet we are not who we will become. I found myself grateful and in love with the quickening. Life is always lived between then and soon, right here and now, in the beautiful not yet."
Over two decades Newcomer has released a series of heart-felt, elegant and lyrically insightful albums. Her words and music have contributed to the greater good of modern culture. Like the Beautiful Not Yet, her albums spring from the natural world: Her songs have brought to life the overlooked wonder of geodes, ("Geodes"), the unsuspecting magic of roadside peach-stands ("I Cannot Say Its Name) and the power of political and civic action ("If Not Now"). The sum of her songs brings us to an experience of hope.
Along the way we have comfort of her warm voice and the skilled acoustically instrumentation generous with guitars, violins, banjos, mandolin and piano. While the musicians are skilled their contributions add to the beauty of the song in a way that is egoless.
The album has strong sense of a marriage between bluegrass and chamber music with a twist of folk. The earthiness of Newcomer's music along with the seamless quilt-elegance of her sound allowed producer Jayme Stone (The Lomax Project) to explore the silence and the sound between voice and instrument creating a rich, live-in-the studio feel to the songs. On hand are Newcomer veterans, Gary Walters on piano and Jim Brock on percussion.
The remainder of songs are of equal value and quality with Newcomer's trademark twist on subject matter. On "Three Feet Or So," she illustrates the fact that we all hold a circle of influence in the world about three feet wide. There is a sense of jubilation as she sings emphatically:
I can't change the whole world.
But I can change the world I know,
What's within three feet or so.
The songs is perhaps the most powerful and pertinent on the album. As Newcomer states:
"Even now as we look to an uncertain future, there things that have always saved us personally and as a culture." She continues, "We still can show compassion, kindness, a sense of humor, hospitality, generosity. These things don't go away because of a particularly brutal political season. They are still right here completely accessible to us."
There is a feeling of comfort when Newcomer puts her own three feet sphere of influence on songs like "Sanctuary,""Hope in Hard Times," "The Season of Mercy," and "You Can Do This Hard Thing."
At a time in our common history, when anger, misinformation and racism continue in our national headlines, Carrie Newcomer's new album certainly bring us to some much-needed warmth, compassion, kindness as she entertains and informs us with her elegant music.