Some musicians try to blur the lines between folk music and pop music while others create music that defines these differences. Carrie Newcomer is among the later. Her ninth album on Philo, The Gathering of Spirits, displays the kind of emotional depth and musicality you would expect from a mature folk artist at the height of her powers.
From the first measure of The Gathering of Spirits you will be struck by the rich deep intimate harmonic resonance of Newcomer’s voice. Her opening lyrics “Holy is the dish and drain, the soap and sink, and cup and plate” set the tone for this album, one of reverence for the details of everyday life. Few artists can create such complete images with as few words. Here’s the opening verse to “Silver,” “Will you love me when we go silver, When our ears and noses get bigger, When arthritis starts to nag, and our best parts start to sag.” Combine her pithy lyrics with equally enticing melodies and you have songs that work beautifully.
Co-produced and mixed by Mark Williams, The Gathering of Spirits has a warm intimate natural sound that the music requires. Special guest Allison Krauss, who joins Newcomer on the title track, is one of many stellar musicians whose contributions make this album so fine. Jim Brock handles drums and percussion, Jeff Hedback plays electric bass, Winton Reynolds plays a range of keyboards, Keith Skooglund plays electric and acoustic guitars, Chris Wagoner plays mandolin, violin, dobro and accordion, and Sam Bartlett plays banjo.
Music needs more than hot licks and catchy turnarounds to possess staying power and emotional weight. Carrie Newcomer’s The Gathering of Spirits proves that songs and the feelings they can evoke are what real music is all about.