Music » Bang und Strum

Shruggin' off those election blues

Carrie Newcomer provides stress relief

Carrie Newcomer performs Friday night at All Souls - Unitarian Universalist Church.
  • Carrie Newcomer performs Friday night at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.

The suspense will be killing you. On Oct. 29 there will be four more days left in George W. Bush's America or four days and four more years. A dream for some, a nightmare for others.

Thankfully, a bit of respite will be at hand as Carrie Newcomer will play in town that penultimate Friday. Going to a Newcomer show is more than watching a consummate artist entertain; it is also a time to connect with a group of people who will share your joy, or pain, on election night. Yep, it's that thing they call "community" and Newcomer is an inspiring community builder.

An ardent activist, Newcomer addresses the world through her music and lyrics. "I'm not a political writer; I write about the human condition, but if you listen closely it is clear where I'm at," she explained.

Where the 46-year-old is at is living on a homestead "way out" of Bloomington, Indiana. Newcomer has two dogs; she is the proud mother of Amelia, 21; she writes; she teaches songwriting workshops; and she tours as much as she can. In the last 10 years, she has produced eight albums, and she devotes a lot of time to social causes. This year she was named Bloomington's "Woman of the Year."

The importance of people, family and the communities they form is integral to Newcomer's music. Betty's Diner: The Best of Carrie Newcomer, her most recent release, presents 18 songs, 15 gathered from previous albums and three previously unreleased cuts.

The album name and title song is not a real place, but a symbolic amalgam of American diners, "where community happens ... where people get together."

Similarly Betty's Diner pulls together a group of songs that tell stories of loss and longing; the joy of new love; the excitement of adventures unknown; and the sadness of lives not fully lived. Though Newcomer describes herself as a "girl with a guitar," her music, without denying its folk roots avoids overly simplistic definitions. She works with competent session musicians who provide a solid sound far denser than typical folk tracks. Her soul-stirring voice is reminiscent of Joan Armatrading, enhanced with a clarity that evokes Patty Griffin or Alison Krauss.

Newcomer's emphasis on human relationships comes partly from her spiritual beliefs. For 20 years she has attended Quaker meetings and strives to live up to the Quaker adage of "let your life speak." In her life and music she extols the virtues of pacifism, social justice and an underlying love of humanity. Furthering her commitment, she links her tours to social groups that get a chance to set up a table at the concert and present their programs. This tour, Newcomer is donating 10 percent of the proceeds to a Quaker group, The American Friends, involved in humanitarian relief in Iraq and caring for AIDS orphans in Africa.

So with all that election angst tearing you up, come to the show early and refresh your soul with a dose of humanity. Newcomer will play at the All Souls Unitarian Church, a good place to send up an election prayer.

-- Wayne Young


Carrie Newcomer with opening act Greg Borom

Friday, Oct. 29, doors open at 7 p.m.

All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 731 N. Tejon St.

Tickets $10 at the door or from Tejon Street Market, 321 N. Tejon St.

For more information, contact Steve Harris at 633-3043 or visit

Newcomer will also play at Swallow Hill, Denver, on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 8 p.m.

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