"The Bird or the Wing"
Newcomer is an Indiana-based inheritor of the Joni Mitchell folk-pop legacy, with a winning mixture of talent and perceptiveness. In her second album for a national label, she turns an examining eye on her own emotional life but artfully balances the personal with the universal. Her intimate songs touch on themes of morality, philosophy and spirituality without seeming to strain for effect or to billboard themselves as Big Statements.
Newcomer explores her feelings about being a mother, a lover, a seeker after spiritual connection, and a sojourner on what she dubs the "strange adventure" of living. Along with the deep, probing songs sparked by a parent's death or a romantic setback come glowing affirmations such as the hymnal "The Yes of Yes," and upbeat moods like the bright, Soweto-beat title track or the swooning "Tenderly With You." While Newcomer's writing is serious to the core and never attempts to be funny, she does give the lightness of living its due.
Blessed with a rich, clear alto, Newcomer has a knack for phrasing that captures the turns and sudden realizations of a mind seriously engaging an important experience. Her accompanying cast supplies pleasing harmonies and sturdy, uncluttered instrumental backup that ranges from the country-flavored folk-rock of "I'm Not Going to Let You Break My Heart" to the dark, driving blues of "The Prelude." She doesn't come on brashly, trying to bowl a listener over, but performs like someone confident in the staying power of her ideas and her abilities.