Carrie Newcomer - Before and After
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Before and After (Rounder, 2010)

Carrie Newcomer

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

Much like those of Kate Campbell and Meg Hutchison, Carrie Newcomer's coffeehouse folk, late-'70s songwriter-influenced sounds refuse to serve as background music. This is folk roots impressionism mixing spirituality, questioning and vision without obviousness or a hint of sanctimoniousness; through her words, the singer encourages reflection and personal efficacy.

Herself a fine guitarist, Newcomer elaborates on the structure of her compositions through the judicious orchestration of side-musicians on cello, mandolin, piano, drums and bass. Newcomer's gorgeous voice - one that moves from high to low, from sweet to challenging without histrionics or duplicity - mirrors the tasteful accompaniment. Memorable vocal contributions from Mary Chapin Carpenter on the title track are a highlight.

Isolated phrases will resonate with listeners. Perhaps "Courage doesn't always shout" from A Simple Change of Heart or "Forgive myself for what didn't matter," an observation from Before and After. Pinching a bit of melody from Stephen Foster's Hard Times Come Again No More, Newcomer is spot-on when she sings, "Sometimes there's nothing left to do but pack it up and move along" on Ghost Train.

The all-encompassing messages cannot be lost. Newcomer writes songs that she hopes will mean something, songs that will strike a chord. That she is able to make such entirely enjoyable is a measure of her mastery of the craft. With "Before & After" Carrie Newcomer has written an album's worth of songs that encourage faith and emotion to rise to consciousness.

CDs by Carrie Newcomer

The Point of Arrival, 2019 The Beautiful Not Yet, 2016 A Permanent Life, 2014 Kindred Spirits: A Collection, 2012 Before and After, 2010 The Geography of Light, 2008

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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