Carrie Newcomer: Until Now

A Musical-Moral Compass

Listening Post 335. There is nothing so strong or safe in an emergency of life, wrote Dickens, as the simple truth.* “Emergency of life” is as good a description as any to describe humanity’s plight these past two years, and few contemporary artists are as adept at unearthing simple truths as Carrie Newcomer. On her nineteenth solo album, the Indiana singer-songwriter, essayist and educator wields her warm alto, stirring lyrics and music, and acute powers of observation—all delivered in glorious folk, bluegrass and classical tones—to read a disrupted landscape. Until Now—the album and Newcomer’s companion book of poems—identifies the global pandemic as a “great unraveling” that both allows and requires rebuilding the world, and in the process transforming ourselves. If this sounds overly philosophical just listen to her sing about finding the resilience to stretch our limits, about looking deep and embracing change, about accepting mystery and learning from the natural realm. She wastes neither a crisis nor surplus words in Throwing Rocks at Moon—sample line, “A good song usually hurts just a little bit” (video 1)—while A Long Way Up highlights the importance of single steps, any one of which may lead to a new threshold (video 2). My Dog carries a two-sided aspiration: To be loved as we are and to make the world better just by living up to the esteem in which our trusting canine friends hold us (video 3). Newcomer celebrates iconic role models who inspire us to move forward in Like Molly Brown (video 4), a song/metaphor especially apt at a time when all humanity sits in the same boat. And she bundles fury and wonder together in When the Wolf Is at Door, capturing the moment when past and future collide (video 5). Navigating the age of emergency, Carrie Newcomer offers guidance and comfort with her musical-moral compass. (Available Light Records)

Carrie Newcomer: Until Now
Carrie Newcomer: Lead and harmony vocals, guitar
Paul Kowert: Electric and upright bass
Allie Summers: Violin, harmony vocals
Jordan Tice: Guitar, mandolin
Gary Walters: Piano, field organ

Related posts. Carrie Newcomer: The Point of Arrival, Listening Post 221, Oct. 1, 2019. https://worldlisteningpost.com/2019/10/01/carrie-newcomer-the-point-of-arrival/
Carrie Newcomer: Live at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, Listening Post 131, January 1, 2018. https://worldlisteningpost.com/2018/01/01/carrie-newcomer-live-at-the-buskirk-chumley-theater/

*Charles Dickens quote from David Copperfield

 

Throwing Rocks at The Moon
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

She was staring out the kitchen door/She closed her eyes as I crossed the floor
In the last embers of the day/She said, “I’m bone tired of being brave, being brave”

We piled it up and we lit a match/Let it all burn down to smoke and ash
A dumpster fire out there on the lawn/We let it burn until it all was gone, All was gone

A little relief couldn’t come too soon/Waiting on fate to change its tune
But it seems I’ve been throwing/Just throwing rocks at the moon

I sat for months with an empty page/Didn’t want to but finally forgave
In a cloud of dust, you drove away/I couldn’t say goodbye I only waved, Only waved

A little relief couldn’t come too soon/Waiting on fate to change its tune
But it seems I’ve been throwing/Just throwing rocks at the moon

I’ve tried to work hard, outrun or outsmart/End the book before I read the middle part
Every new twist, and every scene/Took me somewhere I needed to be

I don’t know yet what this all means/Maybe someday it will be redeemed
That’s the long and the short of it/A good song usually hurts just a little bit

You asked me, “Why, why me or you?”/I said, “Why not,” you said, “I guess that’s true”
It’s easy to be lost as to be found/I guess it’s time to lay these old rocks down, Lay them down

A little relief couldn’t come too soon/Waiting on fate to change its tune
But it seems I’ve been throwing/Just throwing rocks…

A little relief couldn’t come too soon/Waiting on fate to change its tune
But it seems I’ve been throwing/Just throwing rocks at the moon

 

A Long Way Up
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

Here in the great unraveling/So much of this is baffling
When breathing feels like gambling/Nowhere to go but here
Things come together then fall apart/We gather up our broken hearts
And endings are just a place to start/And so we start again.

We’re gonna climb this ladder rung by rung/We’re gonna count our blessings one by one
It’s gonna take a little grace and luck/‘Cause baby it’s a long way up
Baby it’s a long way up.

When the days are short and the stars align/We live in time outside of time
Slow dancing as the new moon shines/With you humming in my ear

We’re gonna climb this ladder rung by rung/We’re gonna count our blessings one by one
It’s gonna take a little grace and luck/‘Cause baby it’s a long way up
Baby it’s a long way up

Last night my dog sat barking at the world/Yesterday I heard the wild cranes pass
Morning came creeping in at dawn/Like amber on the frosted glass
Mud sat up and looked around/And wondered at the world it found
‘Til ‘ventually the mud laid back down/Smiled and said amen

We’re gonna climb this ladder rung by rung/We’re gonna count our blessings one by one
It’s gonna take a little grace and luck/‘Cause baby it’s a long way up
Baby it’s a long way up/Baby it’s a long way up

 

My Dog
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

I have a grey old dog/Who loves me more than bones
She’s seen my best and worst/And still calls me her very own.
She doesn’t think I need a Nobel prize/I’m just fine in her eyes
Heaven help anyone who tries/To tell her something less
She’s just not impressed

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

“There’s room to improve,” my mother used to say
“Don’t let big dogs get you down, or get in your way”
It just takes a little spit and shine/A little patience, a little time
And when in doubt just be kind/Even to yourself
Not just everyone else

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

Though she’s not the sharpest crayon/My dog loves me as I am
Unenlightened or attuned/She still thinks I hang moon

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

 

Like Molly Brown
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

I’m gonna row my boat like Molly Brown/Picking up an oar, when the ship went down
When she made it home, Molly kissed the ground/I’m gonna row my boat like Molly Brown.

Pull and rest, pull and rest/Do your best, not more or less
Rest and pull, pull and try/Keep asking why
‘Til we all meet on the other side

I’m gonna row my boat like Rosa Parks/On that downtown bus, trying to embark
Didn’t know if she would see the mountain top/When asked stand, Rosa did not.

Pull and rest, pull and rest/Do your best, not more or less
Rest and pull, pull and try/Keep asking why
‘Til we all meet on the other side.

I’m gonna row my boat like RBG/Saying, “all y’all, take your boot off me”
She worked to change the old paradigm/Day by day, one law at a time.

Pull and rest, pull and rest/Do your best, not more or less
Rest and pull, pull and try/Keep asking why
‘Til we all meet on the other side.

I’m gonna row my boat like Lucretia Mott/Who stood up and said, “This has to stop.”
Believed we all carry a piece of light/Some called her wrong, but she was right

Pull and rest, pull and rest/Do your best, not more or less
Rest and pull, pull and try/Keep asking why
‘Til we all meet on the other side

I’m gonna row my boat like Molly Brown/Picking up an oar, when the ship went down
When she made it home, Molly kissed the ground/I’m gonna row my boat like Molly Brown

I’m gonna row my boat like Molly Brown
I’m gonna row my boat like Molly Brown

 

When The Wolf Is At The Door
Lyrics & music: Carrie Newcomer

From the artist’s notes: “Once I watched a tornado funnel cloud form and reach down to the ground. I thought of that experience often in the first weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a time of great unraveling and yet with great disruption comes a possibility for change. We can’t just be healed, we must be transformed.”

There’s an owl gliding silently tonight/The hours drag slow as morphine
In the dark are little flashes of light/Small hearts hold their breath, then breathe

There’s a storm like I’ve never seen before/Rumbling like a train, coming up through the floor
We can’t just be healed, we must be transformed/When the sky goes dark, and the wolf is at the door

My old dog lifts her nose into the wind/She can tell when trouble is near
We mark the sidewalks with symbols and lines/And pray that it don’t stop here

There’s a storm like I’ve never seen before/Rumbling like a train, coming up through the floor
We can’t just be healed, we must be transformed/When the sky goes dark, and the wolf is at the door

It’s like a wave coming in/I can’t stop or change
And the shape of things I knew/Won’t ever be the same
But when the old world ends/A new world starts
What finally comes together/First had to fall apart

I’ve been seeing things I thought I’d never see/There once were four, but now there’s three
Change comes slouching in, unnamed and unforeseen/With a quiet voice or on soundless wings

There’s a storm like I’ve never seen before/Rumbling like a train, coming up through the floor
We can’t just be healed, we must be transformed/When the sky goes dark, and the wolf is at the door

 


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