Carrie Newcomer sits in silence each morning in her Indiana home, in meditation, in gentle prayer, her music set aside for deliberate contemplation.
A practicing Quaker, the folk musician believes in the power of love and reflection to overcome violence and injustice, and in the ways that our spirits are revived by spending time in solitude.
“We are so distracted with so much to do an think about,” muses Newcomer. “Our culture does not encourage us to slow down or listen to God, and to stay in contact with our inner landscape. It is extremely important for me to take the time to peel back the layers of distraction to get to the heart of the matter each day.”
Newcomer’s music echoes her internal journey. Her latest CD, her 11th, “The Geography of Light,” explores the intricate tapestry of relationships, from those we have with each other to the spiritual dialogues we hold within our own hearts. A self-professed “theology nerd,” Newcomer found inspiration for her new works in her friendships and collaborations with influential authors, theologians and fellow songwriters including Parker J. Palmer, Phillip Gulley, Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Scott Russell Sanders, Barbara Kingsolver, Holly Near and Bernice Johnson Reagon. The album’s theme chases ideas of goodness, the value in simple things, a reminder that things in our lives are not always as they seem. Listeners will get to hear Newcomer in concert this Saturday, April 19, at Kluge Auditorium in Montezuma.
Newcomer began her artistic career as a visual artist in her native Indiana, but soon discovered that she most loved to write and share songs. She began singing in coffeehouses, and soon built a loyal following.
“I really didn’t think it was something I could make a living at,” reminisces Newcomer. “A singer songwriter from the middle of Indiana — how unlikely was it that I would be able to make a living doing this thing I love? And it has been wonderful that I’ve been able to.”
“The Geography of Light” opens with a guitar, banjo, and violin laden love song, “There is a Tree.” The tune moves through a minor key, through a love affair described in phrases of much-loved memory, of longing. Newcomer sings the chorus, “there is a tree beyond this world,” with strength, giving the listener a glimpse into the spiritual roots pushing her music toward heaven.
In another track, “One Woman and a Shovel,” Newcomer offers a cajun-infected romp praising the power of one good person’s work in a difficult world. She ends her elegant album on an upbeat note with “Don’t Push Send,” a highly amusing ditty about the dangers of writing and sending letters in cyber-space. Her low, rich voice provides perfect counterpoint to a mix of piano, strings, and percussion in a wild mix of folk, classical, pop, and bluegrass styles.
Newcomer is an avid activist, and is donating a portion of the proceeds of “The Geography of Light” during her album tour to The American Friends Service Committee. AFSC carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world. Founded by Quakers in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an opportunity to aid civilian war victims, the organization’s work attracts the support and partnership of people of many races, religions, and cultures. The organization’s mission and achievements won worldwide recognition in 1947 when it accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in social justice with the British Friends Service Council on behalf of all Quakers. Newcomer hopes that her music can inspire others to take action, to push for social justice and peace.
“As a songwriter, we have so little time to make a statement,” says Newcomer. “We have how many verses - maybe four verses - and choruses, and perhaps a bridge, to get a really powerful story across.”
Carrie Newcomer at UWC’s Kluge Auditorium,Saturday, April 19, 7 p.m. For more information, call 425-3840.