ARTIST: CARRIE NEWCOMER

TITLE: BEFORE & AFTER

LABEL: ROUNDER

RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2010

By Terry Roland

CARRIE_NEWCOMEER.jpgThere's no folk like Quaker folk. On the cover of Carrie Newcomer's new CD, Before & After, she is illustrated in warm sunset colors on a train. The window shows a scene outside; a golden sun and several birds in flight. And there is Carrie, busy writing on a pad of paper with book in hand, her feet relaxed on the seat across from her. It is a serene portrait of an artist at work with her inspirations around her.

And what is inside the album demonstrates a quality equal to the cover art. An artist at work in her element, deepening her art, fine tuning her observations of the ordinary and always with her hand on the pulse of the spiritual cravings of the human soul. The title song opens with the anguished sound of a violin background to a tragic hit and run accident and the horrible aftermath. The title, Before & After, speaks of the way we experience our lives via tragedies and foibles. But Carrie doesn't leave us in despair - the song ends with a note of self forgiveness. Which, in the context of this album, is the key to what she calls "the greatest law of love."

We live our lives from then until now

by the mercies received or the mark upon our brow

to my heart I'll collect what the four winds will scatter

and frame my life by before and after.

With the title song, Carrie sets the theme of how our lives are changed by individual events both ordinary and extraordinary, peaceful and profound, subtle and dramatic. With this song Carrie tells us about this spiritual stream that moves through our lives, and meaning is found in being in the present moment.

If her last album, The Geography of Light, were reflections of the ordinary revelations of daily life found in our natural world. Before & After points us toward our interior world, to our everyday grief, loss and joy. There is no magic encouraged in these songs, no shortcuts or miraculous substitutions for the meaning found in the practice of our daily life. This collection of songs presupposes we are spirituality connected as we all crave the dialogue of the soul. However, there are miracles found in the insights of these songs, which in the truest sense of the folk tradition, are accessible and universal to us all. Carrie invites us to find what is already there like so many unnoticed spring wildflowers in a hidden Sierra meadow. Everyday miracles. Ordinary magic.

It's difficult to find a weak link in this collection of songs and stories. The production is sparse, with space to breathe and feel the depth of the lyric. The music is delicate, yet strong, with a voice rich with warmth and deep with soul. The musicians support the songs with taste and care. I Do Not Know Its Name, is about the futility of labeling life's joys with the limitations of words.

The song, If Not Now, Carrie's first sing-along, she asks when do we begin to move toward political and social justice? She points to the problems in the world suggesting the need for people of faith to act out of compassion and not fear.

The lighthearted song, Meant To Do My Work Today, is a reminder of how burdened we become by the tyranny of urgent plans we make during the day - until we surrender to the unfolding beauty of the moment.

Geography of Light was quite an accomplishment for this already accomplished Zen-like Quaker singer-songwriter. Before & After is a continuation of a conversation begun on that collection of songs; another chapter in a distinguish body of work.

Well, I believe in love and I live my life accordingly. But I choose to let the mystery be.

-Iris Dement

Terry Roland is an English teacher, freelance writer, occasional poet, songwriter and folk and country enthusiast. The music has been in his blood since being raised in Texas. He came to California where he was taught to say ‘dude' at an early age.