My Father's Only Son

Carrie Newcomer

Philo (CD PH 1203)

Rounder Records
One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140

Review for The Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Jeff Wenning

Although this is my first exposure to her music, after listening to Carrie Newcomer's My Father's Only Son, I feel like I've been listening to her for years. She has a revealing, self-effacing style that hones in on some of the smaller slices of the pie called Life. Carrie Newcomer melds intelligent writing to introspection like few singer/songwriters can.

Carrie Newcomer's vocals are silky smooth yet as warm as grandma's afghan. Lovely on the slower acoustic tracks, her voice can also punch through the full-up electric band numbers. Whisper or wail, Carrie Newcomer's voice has no rough edges - and passes over a tongue that has something to say. It's a voice that will suffer many comparisons, but none will be definitive, and none will do it justice. As others will, I caught glimmers and flashes in her style that reminded me of other artists. Through subsequent listenings, I realized that the only undeniable similarity to other singers is that she is an alto.

While many of the songs in this collection deal with relationships, her reflections are not restricted to the romantic. They also focus on her father (My Father's Only Son), her mother (The Rooms My Mother Made), and her daughter (Amelia Almost 13).

The title track, My Father's Only Son, describes a fishing trip with her father. She sets the emotional tone of the song by explaining that "My father had three daughters/So I became his only son," and later sings, "I grew up out of my fishin' clothes/I told him once and he slowly smiled/That his only son was expecting a child." A nice twist on the father-daughter relationship.

These Are The Moments is a reminder that the loves in our lives are more important than the impact of any single event. After grabbing you with heartbeat bass rhythms and sparse electric guitar fills, a semi-talkover reading of the verse leads to a simple three line bridge and dramatic build to the chorus where she lets the band kick it while her voice takes flight. Nice!

In The Rooms My Mother Made, you can sense the ache Carrie must have felt, at times, in her relationship with her mother. Quoting her mother's admonitions, she sings "'...Stand up straight and say what you mean/Look at me when I'm talkin' to you/I'm talkin' to you.'" At the same time, she reveals her acceptance of the painful experiences. She's able to draw on them, yet let some of them go so that she can focus on the positive: "Don't be afraid to look behind/And take what's worth taking/Leave what needs leaving behind you."

You Can Choose offers an inspirational, positive look at the choices we have in life. In her opinion, "You can throw life like your anger at the wall/Embrace it like you're following the call/You can wear it like your hard won years/You can find it like the music you almost hear." This is an up-tempo tune with a nice accordion part to give it a bit of Cajun flavor. I can see 'em doing a line dance to this in a C&W bar.

In my view, the band is the height of restraint; but then, I'm a junkie for great accompaniment. The accompaniment here has few solo instrumental breaks, but I'll go with the producer/arranger's decision. This band provides just enough punch to provide added interest while ensuring the emphasis stays on the singing and lyrics.

Production value is only slightly higher than with other singer/songwriters, but given the wide commercial appeal of this album, it's probably just right. This is a well engineered recording that should accurately represent what the listener could expect from her live performances.

For more information on Carrie Newcomer visit her web site at

Look for My Father's Only Son at finer music stores or contact, The Rounder Records Group, One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140.

Edited by Michele Scherneck

Copyright, 1997 by Jeffrey A. Wenning and the Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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