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Carrie Newcomer
The Geography Of Light

Review By Steven Stone
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  With every new release, Carrie Newcomer's name becomes more ironic. She is anything but a newbie to the world of contemporary folk singer/songwriting. The Geography of Light is her eleventh Rounder release. It further reinforces the argument that Newcomer deserves to be considered among the zenith of current folk artists. Her talent is both prodigious and inescapable.

Newcomer's career began in the early 80's when she was part of the folk group Stone Soup. She began her solo career when they disbanded in 1990. Her songwriting displays an introspective bent, populated by private moments. On the CD's first song, "There Is a Tree", Newcomer pens the line "I am the fool whose life has been spent between what is said and what is meant." That succinctly sums up the role of a lyricist. Her melodies draw from the vast ocean of American musical traditions with Celtic and Appalachian forms predominating.

Many songwriters are better at writing than performing their material. Not so for Carrie Newcomer. Her lushly nuance vocals command your attention through their intimacy. Like Mary Chapin Carpenter or Rosanne Cash, Newcomer's voice combines power with vulnerability. Her deft fingerpicking style forms the musical pulse and center for her songs' arrangements. Co-produced and engineered by David Weber, the sonics on The Geography of Light reinforce the elegance and direct simplicity of Newcomer's music. Her lead vocals emerge from a velvety black stage with just enough instrumental ornamentation to reinforce the mood without drawing attention away from each song's center. The arrangements on The Geography of Light avoid the temptation to prettify the already beautiful melodies, which would trivialize the music.

The music business has a nasty habit of commodifying art. Intimate moments and insights are packaged in plastic for mass consumption. Occasionally something slips through unscathed. The Geography of Light radiates with powerful personal truth that raises it far above mere musical product.

 

 

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