Carrie Newcomer

Before & After

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With her rich alto voice and wise, meditative, and lyrically precise songwriting style, Carrie Newcomer has been going her own way along the contemporary music highway for a while now, and Before & After, her 12th album for Rounder Records, continues that journey, and not surprisingly, it seems comfortably her, full of a calm warmth and few regrets. This is an album about how we remember our lives -- about the moments we chose to focus on, the little choices that give us consequence as the days fly by, and the moments that remain with us long after they were the now we fussed over back when. And there are beautiful songs here, including the title track, “Before & After,” which is a gorgeous treatise on the choices we make, the languidly unwinding “Stones in the River,” the lovely “If Not Now,” the bright “A Simple Change of Heart,” and the allegorical “Do No Harm,” a wise essay on the pure nature of love that is based on the stories of Scott Russell Sanders. The instrumentation on Before & After is sparse and appropriate, with Newcomer's steady, warm, and unhurried vocals and her marvelously realized and thoughtful songs always at the very center of things. Some musicians want to move us, to make us dance and forget, which is fine, but Newcomer wants us to remember the moments we need to remember and to sway gently to those. This album works. It’s reaffirming.

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