It was the richness of the voice, along with the depth of her spirituality, and the accessibility of her songs, that drew me in when I first heard Carrie Newcomer live in 2014. “We are living moments of grace and wonder, shadow and light,” Newcomer says. These are the moments she captures in her music.
Carrie Newcomer has always explored “the intersection of the spiritual and the daily, the sacred and the ordinary. Over the course of her career she has become a prominent voice for progressive spirituality, social justice and interfaith dialogue.”
It is a voice sorely needed in this day and age.
In her classic I Believe, Newcomer begins by singing,
I believe there are some debts that we never can repay / I believe there are some words that you can never unsay /And I don’t know a single soul who didn’t get lost along the way.
Later, she tells us how she’s sees the ordinary as anything but,
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.
And near the end, she let’s the listener know that community with people known and unknown — past and present — is here for us to take.
I believe in a good long letter written on real paper and with real pen, / I believe in the ones I love and know I’ll never see again, / I believe in the kindness of strangers and the comfort of old friends, / And when I close my eyes to sleep at night it’s good to say, “Amen”
Newcomer has a side that laughs easily, as on My Dog when singing that she wants to live up to the person her dog thinks she is.
I’m doing the best I can, / At least that’s what I plan. / I’m trying to be the person that / My dog thinks I am.
That tune is from her most recent album, Until Now, which “explores the process of unraveling and reweaving the threads of our lives after great disruption, exploring change and transformation with attention to detail and self-compassion.” Yes, it came out during the pandemic.
I Will Sing a New Song, also from Until Now, was inspired by a poem by the same name by the theologian and mystic Dr. Howard Thurman. It is another take on the reweaving necessary after great change.
I will sing a new song. / The old one’s carried me this far and for so long, / But it’s time to walk on, / Lifting up my voice and heart with a new song.
Her ability for sharp observation of the world led the Dallas Morning News to rave, “She’s the kind of artist whose music makes you stop, think and then say, ‘that is so true.'” She has been described as “a soaring songstress” by Billboard, a “prairie mystic” by the Boston Globe and Rolling Stone has declared that Newcomer “asks all the right questions.”
Newcomer often writes about how she has been supported by others, as in this tune from the 2016 album The Beautiful Not Yet. She noted that “Barbara Kingsolver has written about a phrase she uses to encourage her children, ‘You can do hard things.’”
I loved this idea behind this phrase. It absolutely acknowledges the difficulty of the task at hand, and yet, at the same time it completely affirms that the child has everything they need to move forward, and that they have support. I began to think about all the times in my own life that someone has given me that kind of sound advice and encouragement.
When I was writing a post for my most recent birthday, I came across Newcomer’s Leaves Don’t Drop They Just Let Go and was moved by the simple truth of this line:
I’ve traveled through my history.
From certainty to mystery.
God speaks in rhyme in paradox.
This I know is true…
There is a wealth of Newcomer music to explore, and I encourage you to do so. But I’ll end with her song and a message from her 2014 album A Permeable Life that is so needed in this time of alienation and hatred.
Let our hearts not be hardened
To those living in the margins,
There is room at the table for everyone.
This is where it all begins,
This is how we gather in,
There is room at the table for everyone.
Author Barbara Kingsolver wrote of Newcomer, “She’s a poet, storyteller, snake-charmer, good neighbor, friend and lover, minister of the wide-eyed gospel of hope and grace.”
That sounds like someone we should all listen to.
More to come…
Carrie Newcomer portrait by Jim Krause via carrienewcomer.com
David – Thanks to you, I’m listening to Carrie Newcomer right now. Wonderful. Thanks for an outstanding post – and heads-up.
So glad you’re enjoying her music, Tracy! Thanks for letting me know. I’m in your old neck-of-the-woods today…took my morning walk through Central Park!
What a great new discovery for me. I look forward to listening to more of her music. I already shared with a couple of friends. Best, Kathy
Thanks, Kathy. She’s terrific, and I’m glad I was able to introduce you to her music.
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