Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Permeable Life - Carrie Newcomer

Miracles and magic in everyday life

A Permeable Life
Artist: Carrie Newcomer (
Label: Available Light Records
Length: 12 tracks/48 minutes

It’s my loss that Carrie Newcomer’s twelfth studio recording is only my second meeting, the first being The Geography of Light (2008). I have been enriched by each visit, which leads me to believe that becoming acquainted with her other works will bring further delight. If Newcomer is a stranger but you enjoy someone like David Wilcox, take the time to listen to the beauty and depth that this artist offers.

You might find yourself captivated by “Writing You a Letter” on A Permeable Life. The song conveys a sense of awe and mystery, especially in the music. Acoustic guitar, bass, keyboard, light percussion and violin combine in a way that hints at what is below the surface. Newcomer sings, “I’m a stranger here, I’m only passing through/But every place I go leaves its own tattoo,” while the chugging pace provides a sense of journey. This train is bound for glory but don’t expect to remain unchanged along the way.

The sublime sounds make the world seem rife with possibilities. It is my favorite track for the feeling that it conveys. It’s not often that a song can help me experience what cannot be completely named. It’s “miracles and magic.”

Actually, you find similar moments throughout this release. I know that along with stellar musicianship it is Newcomer’s Quaker background that brings such richness. The lovely prose and melodies are enhanced by the finger-picking that drives these songs.

Newcomer lightens the mood on “Room at the Table,” which invites all to partake of a bounty enough for everyone. “Forever Ray” celebrates a lifelong love that endures through the sunset years. The closing “Please Don’t Put Me on Hold” is Newcomer’s humor in full bloom. Anyone who has endured automated answering systems should be able to relate. 

As I write these next words, it is now the early hours of Easter. Christ rose not as a mere phantom but as flesh and blood. This has ever been the hope of the follower of Jesus: the resurrection of the body!

Christianity is incarnate from Advent to the empty tomb. It is concrete spirituality in the form of relationship. I find these two aspects beautifully embodied on “Abide,” the perfect end of day song.

The chorus invites shared presence: “Oh abide with me/Where it’s breathless and its empty/Yes abide with me/And we’ll pass the evening gently/Stay awake with me/And we’ll listen more intently/To something wordless and remaining/Sure and ever changing/In the quietness of now.” What is sure and ever changing? “There is living water/A spirit cutting through/Always changing, always making/All things new.”

Newcomer never needs to preach. Throughout this release she sets her faith in the context of human interactions. It’s delicately worked into every line of struggles and joys. This is not rugged individualism but a lifestyle built on the revelation disclosed in “Visitation” that there “is a hope that won’t let go.” It dawned on Resurrection Sunday and shines to the full light of day.

Lately, I have moments where I long for a renewed sense of wonder. Such a desire is continually obscured by the pace of life and the world’s many distractions. Newcomer’s work is like an ally helping me to find meaning not only in the burning bush but in every grain of sand. Let me be awe-inspired even in the commonplace. As Newcomer puts it, “To live permeably is to be open-hearted and audacious, to risk showing up as our truest self, and embracing a willingness to be astonished.”
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