Review: Carrie Newcomer Looks for Beauty in Broken Times on 20th Solo Album

Carrie Newcomer
A Great Wild Mercy
(Available Light Records)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Both “you can’t go home again” and “there’s no place like home” are tired, if true, clichés that have withstood generations. Of the two, veteran contemporary folk singer Carrie Newcomer seems to gravitate to the latter Wizard of Oz-approved trope on her 20th solo album.

It’s another refined entry into a catalog that started with a mid-’80s involvement in the band Stone Soup, progressing on to a vibrant and remarkably prolific career heralded by her 1991 debut, the first under her name. While a lyrical style of introspective, worldly contemplation adorned by sweet, sensitive music hasn’t changed throughout the decades, Newcomer is a well-traveled troubadour, one who has trekked to and worked in, Kenya, India, and the Middle East among other places.

But on A Great Wild Mercy, she celebrates the joys of stripping things down to their essence, appreciating everything the concept of “home” suggests.  Go back to the source / Go back to your home, Heaven is waiting / But start with a stone she advises in her sumptuous, syrupy voice and that theme trickles through these ten meditative selections.

Take more time, cover less ground she advocates in the song of the same name as Brittany Haas’ fiddle harkens back to the simplicity of bluegrass, chasing and intertwining with Paul Kowert’s standup bass lines. Newcomer reminisces about walking a “Path Through the Evening Woods,” finding peace and solitude in that most basic of strolls singing I can sense the souls of those who’ve passed on for the Irish-inflected, waltz-time tune with the warmth and reflection that the graceful amble ignites.

Newcomer’s voice sounds so similar to that of Karen Carpenter at times, that you might think this is a long-lost stab at folk from the deceased pop singer. That’s particularly the case in the jaunty pluck of “Potluck,” one of this album’s most upbeat moments, where the singer rejoices in the community aspects of dining together with It’s a quiet mercy, we’re saying grace / Holding the soft light, juggling plates.

It’s another low-key yet far-from somber set from Newcomer, whose career has drifted towards finding positives in a life and world with plenty of issues. I’ve been looking for beauty/In these broken times/By making some beauty/In the world that I find consolidates her attitude in the closing ballad “Another Day” as she tries to convince herself to let go of worries.

Those Pollyannaish notions may sound simplistic in these divisive times. But Newcomer’s approach is so honest and unpretentious that she convinces listeners with her supple melodies, classy playing, and honeyed voice, just like she has been doing for the past thirty-plus years.

Click your heels three times and join her.       

Courtesy Dog Ranch Music PR

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