At 42, singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer feels she's finally found her voice in her ninth album, the recently released Age of Possibility.
Although her previous work has always had an underlying element of hope and confidence, the degree to which those characteristics are present in her latest and to her mind, best album, comes with the full knowledge of life's ups and downs.
"I'm 42 years old and I've earned every one of 'em," she said.
Newcomer began her musical career as lead singer for the group Stone Soup, with whom she recorded two albums Long Fields (1983) and October Nights (1987).
She calls her first solo album, Visions and Dreams, "transitional" in its dealings with failed relationships she was recently divorced at the time. Her second, Angel on My Shoulder, was, like its predecessor, in the traditional acoustic-folk vein and included topical protest-type material addressing the Gulf War and homelessness.
My Father's Only Son was in a more country-rock vein, and the video for the subsequent My True Name single "What Kind of Love Is This?" received steady airplay on Country Music Television's "Jammin' Country" program.
But Newcomer was nonetheless amused to find the description of Age of Possibility as "country-tinged soft rock" in a Billboard magazine "Popular Uprisings" column that deemed it a record to watch.
"There are some songs on the record that really rock," she said. "I read somewhere that Ani DiFranco said that folk is an attitude. I like that. My music is folk in attitude," although, she said, "I wouldn't call myself a traditional folk performer.
"I'm always one of those artists that it's a question: 'What record bin do we put her in?' That's why I like this new Americana format. It's broad enough to cover everyone from Lyle Lovett to Alison Krauss to Bonnie Raitt. People who are mixing things up, people who are on the edges of whatever main genre they're associated with. There's a lot of good company out on the edges."
On The Age of Possibility, Newcomer said, " 'Sparrow' (RealAudio excerpt) is probably the truest love song I've ever written. And I'm really pleased with 'Threads' it's about those people who touch your life forever or you touch theirs. Sometimes you know that, and sometimes you may not even know.
"The title line, 'the age of possibility,' comes from 'When It's Gone It's Gone' (RealAudio excerpt), which talks about taking responsibility for your actions. 'Tornado Alley' is about living in a risky place and about loving someone, which of course is a huge risk, too, but with huge possibilities.
"I had a lot of valid things to say when I was 17, but now the well has grown so much deeper. I can say things now I never could have said when I was younger, in ways I never could have said them.
"I feel as though I've found my voice, the voice I want to speak with. I'm really writing to the human experience, as honestly as I know how. Life is amazing and joyous and bittersweet and tragic, and I try to be as honest as I can about all of that. I have this feeling that there's always opportunity, that it's always an age of possibility.
"I'm a very personal songwriter," Newcomer said, "but I try not to write my diaries. I have diaries for that. I want to write about things that we both recognize, things where people will say, 'Ah, I know that feeling,' or 'Oh, you said that in words I don't have yet.' "