Carrie Newcomer: The Point of Arrival

Getting to Hallelujah

Listening Post 221. In a recent social media post, Carrie Newcomer described an unexpected layover at O’Hare Airport: In a comfortable Starbucks booth she opened a book, but didn’t get much read because of a barista singing mini arias. “He was obviously a trained vocalist,” she wrote, “and a seriously fine baritone …. singing out orders in soaring melodies …. lattes and cappuccinos, the name of the patrons, and always (with a final flourish) a thank you. I sat there for an hour, just listening, closing my eyes, enjoying the resonance of his voice… I noticed how some people stopped, clearly delighted by something so fine and rarefied. Others hurried by, so intent on getting where they were going, they arrived at their gate but missed the miracle.” In the test of life, the most satisfied are those who pay attention. Newcomer, a Bloomington, Indiana-based singer-songwriter, not only keeps her eyes and ears open, she has spent her career motivating others to do so. On her eighteenth solo album, her wisdom—always grounded in the human spirit—is addressed to “living in the kind of times that ask us to be better people than we ever thought we would need to be.” She delivers her incisive poetry in a warm, magnetic voice and with a rich musical palette of folk, country and periodic classical colors. She sings of everyday miracles in Impossible, Until It’s Not (video 1) and her most acute discoveries are often marvels hidden in plain sight, as in Everything We Need (video 2). She teaches optimism in That’s the Way Things Go (video 3) and courage in The Only Way Through Is In (video 4). The title track (video 5) is a hymn to endings that turn into beginnings and moments of wonder—dividends for our attention—that just may trigger a spontaneous “Hallelujah.” (Available Light)

The Point of Arrival
Carrie Newcomer: Lead vocal, harmony vocal, acoustic guitar, banjo
Tristan Clarridge: Cello
Alex Hargreaves: Violin
Joe Phillips: Bass
Jordan Tice: Guitar, mandolin
Moira Smiley: Harmony vocal
Gary Walters: Piano
Marta Guðmunsdóttir: Cello
Guðbjartur Hákonarson: Violin
Ben Lumsdaine: Drums, percussion
David Weber: Harmony vocal
Andrew Collins: Viola

Note 1: The Point of Arrival bears the epigraph, “Within us and between us is everything we need.” The lyric reflects Newcomer’s Quaker tradition and also regular collaboration (prose-poetry-music appearances, podcasts, website) with author-educator-activist Parker J. Palmer. There is much mutual inspiration between the album and Palmer’s most recent book, On the Brink of Everything.

Note 2: For the review of Carrie Newcomer’s previous album, Live at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, see Listening Post 131, January 1, 2018.
https://worldlisteningpost.com/2018/01/01/carrie-newcomer-live-at-the-buskirk-chumley-theater/

 

Impossible, Until It’s Not
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

Engineers say bumblebees can’t fly
Their wings are too short/And their bodies too wide
But there one goes a-wandering by/It happens all the time

There’s just no way lighting could be born
They’ve measured the clouds/And it just can’t form
But it cracks the sky in every thunderstorm/It happens all the time

It’s impossible, impossible
Impossible, until its not

There’s light in the night/From stars long gone
A half-formed thought becomes a song
We rise from our grief and go on/It happens all the time

There’s a lake that you cannot see across
A way through the woods/That I thought I’d lost
Clearing out everything that it’s time to toss/It happens all the time

It’s impossible, impossible
Impossible, until its not

So I won’t say it cannot be
It hasn’t happened yet/But wait and see

I have lived an impossible life/Followed my heart against all advice
And yes, I’ve fallen more than once or twice/I’ll follow anyway
A golden moon pulls us from our sleep/And feels as close as our hands and feet
The road’s too hard and it’s too damn steep/We’ll climb it anyway

It’s impossible, impossible
Impossible, until its not

 

Everything We Need
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

I saw a woman on the street/I thought it was my mother
It caught my breath, but when she turned/I could see it was another

Brief encounters, tricks of light/How I wish for things with all my might
Birds keep gathering for flight/But will return when the time is right

Today I sense that all is near/Evermore and soon to be
Within us and between us is/Everything we need

I pressed my palm, tree after tree/To feel the weight of time
The light came down in silver threads/All mixed with rain and pine

Now I don’t know and never will/What rises in the evening still
How empty cups keep getting filled/How healing comes and hope rebuilds

Today I sense that all is near/Evermore and soon to be
Within us and between us is/Everything we need

It’s not out there somewhere/That’s right
It’s always been right here/Hidden in plain sight

Everything will go to dust/But from the dust returns
Leaves drift down without regret/As another season turns

I dreamt of water every night/While you slept and dreamt of air and light
And I pray we all find clearer sight/And in turning round we come round right

Today I sense that all is near/Evermore and soon to be
Within us and between us is/Everything we need

 

That’s the Way These Things Go
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

Go ahead and sit on the floor/When you can’t outrun it anymore
When nothing helps that did before/Like a river that finally floods the shore

Someday this will all be the past/And blow away like bones and ash
But today is no different than the last/That’s the way these things go
That’s the way these things go

But I’m not lost/I’m only wandering
I’m not adrift, I’m just at sea/I’m not sure, I’m only guessing
This is right where I need to be

In the distance I hear a train/That keeps rolling on as though nothing’s changed
As if the world could ever be the same/That’s the way these things go
That’s the way these things go

But I’m not lost/I’m only wandering
I’m not adrift, I’m just at sea/I’m not sure, I’m only guessing
This is right where I need to be

I saw the sun set over the ridge/Shaped like a heart on a knife’s edge
And I remembered the last thing you said/That’s the way these things go
That’s the way these things go

Yesterday three golden leaves/Fluttered down in front of me
And for a moment I felt the whole world breathe/For a moment I felt the whole world ease

So be kind to everyone that you meet/No matter what you see on the street
You don’t know what people live down deep/That’s the way these things go
That’s the way these things go/That’s the way these things go

 

The Only Way Through Is In
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

You can’t get over it/You can’t go ‘round it
You can’t get under it/I know because I’ve tried
Checking the walls on every side
And if I could pray/Or do this any other way
I would’ve done it long ago

The only way out is through/But the only way through is in, again
Where the soft soul waits/And hearts beat and break
And the real wars are waged and won/By some

This runaway train/In a well worn brain
More of the same/Can’t be sustained anymore
So I walked in through that door
And it felt like dying/But it feels like trying
Yet I’m still only half way there

The only way out is through/But the only way through is in, again
Where it’s hard as stone/And close to the bone
Where the real wars are waged and won

I think that/You might be
The bravest soul/I’ll ever meet anywhere
Just sitting in that chair
And with shaking hands/I saw you make your stand
And I believe you can/You can

The only way out is through/But the only way through is in, again
Where the soft soul waits/And hearts beat and break
And the real wars are waged and won

 

The Point of Arrival
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

First it is a bitter pill/A rubber band stretched ‘til it snaps
Sitting crossed legged on the floor/My empty hands are in my lap

What is to become of me/Here at my surrendering
Where I arrive at the end/The place where I begin again

First we fold in, then open out/There is a faith that’s only found in doubt
Acceptance is the closing of a cycle/The end that marks the point of arrival

This is where I lay it down/What I don’t want to haul around
The buzzing of what can’t be seen/And living always in-between.

First we fold in, then open out/There is a faith that’s only found in doubt
Acceptance is the closing of a cycle/The end that marks the point of arrival

Looking down at my hands/Finally I understand
The empty space has changed somehow/And it’s filled with hallelujah now

Hallelujah, hallelu/It’s hard as stone, but yet its true
Acceptance is the closing of a cycle/The end that marks the point of arrival

If I let go of who’s to blame
What can’t be changed/And will never be the same
Close the book, with one last look/Letting go of all the time it took

Hallelu hallelujah/Hallelu hallelujah
Hallelu hallelujah

 


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