Friday, July 18, 2008

now playing: Carrie Newcomer: The Geography of Light

Carrie Newcomer
The Geography of Light

Light is both constant and change, morning light to evening light, warning light to light of love, always changing always present, seen and felt differently by where each person stands, and seen and felt by all. You could make an analogy with faith, and the search for it, which is what Carrie Newcomer does in The Geography of Light. She's indirect about that, usually -- Newcomer has the gift of being straight forward and complex at the same time, both musically and lyrically. Those are things she’s always been good at, and things she’s always been growing into, in her work. The Geography of Light is a bold, and right, next step.

“I think there are a couple of themes running through the songs on this album,” she says. “Change, and the response to change, is one, that and asking the good questions. And that the good questions come back, you know. You tend to think you ask the questions once, and you’re done. But they come back.”

In one of the songs here, Newcomer looks at things from the perspective of Lazarus, he who was raised from the dead. What was it like for him? Speaking of living through and with change... Lazarus has unresolved questions about his purpose in life, what to do with all he’s learned, abandonment, changes in friends, understanding love-- as who does not? The main character in The Clean Edge of Change finds herself at another point on the journey of changes, wrapped up in trying to make things happen by her own direction, at her own timing, and then -- something else happens.

Something else happens to the person in There is a Tree, too, who is also living and loving her way through the changes of figuring out what it is like to be called to create, and to connect. One Woman and a Shovel is drawn from the history of Newcomer’s home ground in southern Indiana, inspired by a story by Scott Russell Sanders set in a time when Indiana was frontier country. As Martha takes up her shovel to tear down a dam, and as her neighbors begin to join her, it becomes a tale that goes beyond history to thoughts on dealing with mistakes, the power of ideas, and creating community. “Never underestimate the power of love, or one woman with a shovel,” Newcomer sings.

Light and dark, laughter and love, sorrow and grace are all present in Newcomer’s songs, whether she’s considering what some familiar stories of faith and meeting with God might look like if played out today in Where You Been, framed in a snap your fingers and sing along melody, or looking at lessons of anger learned and not learned in You’d Think By Now, or thinking about the physical and spiritual dimensions of the edges of light into dark and dark into light, in Map of Shadows. She concludes the disc with a lighthearted comment on unintended consequences and yes, change, mistakes, and all that, resulting from e mail wrong headedness, with Don’t Push Send.

As ever, Newcomer’s music offers plenty of space for the listener, room to contemplate those questions, and room just to listen to the music. Do both; you’ll be well rewarded.

Intersection of music and spirit is something that comes up often here along the Music Road. You might want to see these posts:

Music Road: now playing: Angels Unaware

Music Road: creative practice: laughter

Music Road: late summer: two for the road

Music Road: now playing: Hanneke Cassel and Christopher Lewis: Calm the Raging Sea

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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