Material: Michigan native Carrie Newcomer—singer, songwriter, poet, author, host—is something of a renaissance woman. Also, despite her last name (to grab some low hanging fruit), she’s been performing since 1980. This livestreamed show sees her perform the 2016 album The Beautiful Not Yet album, and then close out with a few extras. Attendees/viewers are invited to chat with Newcomer in the virtual lobby beforehand, and the artist appears genuinely enthused to see so many “heart” and “applause” emojis popping up on the screen as she plays. It might not be the same as bonafide audience feedback, but it’s way better than nothing at all.
Musicianship: All three of the people on stage are phenomenal. Newcomer, of course, is an expressive guitar player, the instrument a real extension of her voice when conveying the emotion of songs such as “A Shovel is a Prayer.” Her voice, meanwhile, is warm and smooth, and resonates beautifully. It works perfectly with the blend of folk, Americana, bluegrass and gospel that she plays. The music is spiritual without being at all dogmatic, and her voice works in tandem with that. Walters and Summers are on either side of her, caressing their instruments and adding flourishes where it benefits the song but never over-playing. Both are accomplished musicians in their own right, but at this show they do exactly what is required of them.
Performance: It’s acoustic folk/country. There’s little in the way of a stage show. What there is is an essence of earthy authenticity and that’s exactly what this show needs. Newcomer is a natural speaker (possibly in part because she’s the co-host of a podcast called The Growing Edge), so she’s able to communicate with an invisible crowd as readily as she would one that is directly in front of her. It’s an impressive feat, and it encourages home viewers to really wrap themselves around a personal song like “Cedar Rapids 10AM.”
Summary: All of Newcomer’s albums are worth checking out, but The Beautiful Not Yet is completely beautiful to the point of ethereal. It ties into a book of poems and essays of the same name that was also released in 2016, incidentally. To hear the body of work performed so well by three excellent musicians who appear to be having a great time (despite surroundings that could easily be awkwardly empty) is a real treat.
Contact: [email protected]
Players: Carrie Newcomer, guitar, vocals; Gary Walters, piano; Allie Summers, violin