I must preface this by saying, once again, that I’m not a music critic. I know what I like, and what I don’t like. For me the tune/melody is the key. Whatever message or meaning the lyrics might carry is secondary. If I like the tune, I’ll pay attention to the lyrics (assuming that there are lyrics). Part of the reason why this might be true is that I’m not especially drawn to poetry, and song lyrics are essentially poetry. All of this being true, I can say that I truly enjoy the music of Carrie Newcomer.
This is the third album of Carrie Newcomers that has been provided to me, and as with the previous two I have found it inviting and enjoyable to listen to. As I noted in my first review of an album by her, her voice and style remind me of Karla Bonhoff, a singer/songwriter that I’ve enjoyed since my college years.
Pulled in by the music I am able to attend to the words that speak of God’s presence in the world and call for the listener to be attentive to that presence. It’s not an overpowering message, such that one often finds in Christian music. In fact, this particular album, Everything is Everywhere, has a broad, interfaith appeal. Newcomer is Quaker, and thus her own theology is expressive of her embrace of the Quaker concept of the inner light of God. She’s also attentive to the Quaker embrace of the call to peace and peacemaking.
What sets this album apart from the two albums that I’ve previously reviewed is her collaboration on the album with a well-known and highly regarded Indian family of sarod players – Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Khan, and Ayaan Ali Khan. The sarod is a string instrument that is used in Indian Classical music, and thus this album produces a rather distinctive sound. But, once one is acclimated to this unique sound, at least to western ears, one will be able to enjoy this bridge between Newcomer’s folk music style and the Indian classical music of the Khan family, thus bridging East and West. The two styles ultimately complement each other.
Perhaps what one can take from this collaboration is the possibilities inherent in sharing together our musical traditions to build bridges across ethnic and religious lines. Newcomer’s music is deeply spiritual, but at least in this album it takes broad forms. It invites one to enjoy the world we live in, as is expressed in the song “I Believe.” In this song one won’t find doctrinal definitions, but rather that there is holiness out there – in ginger tea and in those who choose to teach in public school.
I believe in a good strong cup of ginger tea,
And all these shoots and roots will become a tree,
All I know is I can’t help but see
All of this as so very holy,
I can give my own recommendation and perception as to the value of the album -- I like it a lot -- but the best way to decide whether or not to try it is to go to the source and take a listen. If you choose to buy a copy of the album, you may want to know that the profits go to the Interfaith Hunger Initiative, “ an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization bringing together two dozen faith communities in the Indianapolis area who work together to end child and family hunger. IHI work to create a system of access to food through pantries in central Indiana and schools in foreign countries, feeding and supporting thousands of children and families.”
Good music for a good cause!