“The Sort of Peace and Integrity
For Which We Were Created”
A Review of
Before & After.
Rounder Records, 2010.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]
Reviewed by Chris Smith.
[Scroll Down for Details on how to win a copy of this CD! ]
Local music aficionados here in Central Indiana have long been acquainted with the superb folk songwriting of Carrie Newcomer with its deep roots in the rich tradition of Quaker spirituality. Thus, it comes as no surprise that over the last few years her music has begun to reach larger audiences across North America. Her newest cd Before and After continues her legacy of combining lush folk melodies, crisp vocals and sharp, insightful songwriting. As a whole, the songs here wrestle with issues related to living lives at peace in the face of quotidian challenges. These struggles are perhaps most clearly in the song “I meant to do my work today”:
I meant to do my work today,
So many plans I had made.
I’d check the mail, I’d make the calls
Save the world and sweep the hall,
Finally get my accounting done,
Sort the beans one by one,
But I got waylaid by the morning sun.
And I got absolutely nothing done.
I thought I’d live a louder life.
I’d learn a lot and get it right.
I’d rent a loft I’d drink all night,
I’d be a living archetype,
And in a blinding flash of light,
I’d see that one great insight,
But silence called me deeper still.
Like nothing else ever will. …
All the songs here are superb, but I found myself repeating the cycle of the album’s last three songs, followed by the first (and title) track. “Do No Harm,” was inspired by “Savages” a short story by fellow Hoosier Scott Russell Sanders, and spins the rich historical narrative of a group of nineteenth century Moravian Brethren in Ohio who dared to believe in the peaceable Kingdom of God and its unshakeable nature, even in the face of the bloody forces of Manifest Destiny. “I wish I May, I Wish I Might” is a truly local music at its finest, a delightful whirlwind tour through local Indiana fairs and festivals. I was surprised by how many of these I am familiar with and have enjoyed over my last two decades here in the Hoosier state. “A Crash of Rhinoceros” is the album’s whimsical bonus track in which Newcomer imagines a scene from Eden where Adam names the animals but Eve gives unique names to the groups of animals: “A troubling of goldfish, a cluster of cats, / A bloat of hippopotami, a cloud of bats.” The title track “Before and After” is a catchy tune that captures the essence of the album:
We live our lives from then until now,
By the mercy received and the marks on our brow
To my heart I’ll collect what the four winds will scatter
And frame my life into before and after.
“Before and After” is a beautifully crafted album that challenges us with its call to embrace every day as a gift and to live our with the sort of peace and integrity for which we were created.
We are giving away six copies of this excellent cd!
- Announce the contest on Twitter, Facebook or your blog: I just entered to win Carrie Newcomer’s new cd BEFORE& AFTER from The Englewood Review (@ERBks ). You can enter too: http://ow.ly/1oDqz
- Post a comment to this announcement with your name and a link to your post for #1.
- You may enter one time per day for the duration of the contest.
- We will pick a winner at random from the eligible contestants and notify them next weekend.
The contest will end at 4PM ET on this Friday March 26.