If you don't follow the folk world, you've probably never heard of Carrie Newcomer; if you do follow it, it's unlikely you haven't. Newcomer inhabits the upper level of the folkosphere, along with artists such as Nanci Griffith and Patty Larkin, who've earned their $25-ticket status with equal amounts of artistic ingenuity and personal integrity. Newcomer doesn't simply write and perform songs; her creative efforts are projects complete with concepts, themes and heaps of humanism. The characters in her songs are as real as the neighbors next door. Her voice is as pure as Joan Baez's, as dark and moody as Mary Chapin Carpenter's. And she doesn't just plink at her guitar; she can play.
Her tenth and latest album, Regulars and Refugees, is a follow-up to Betty's Diner-The Best of Carrie Newcomer. Newcomer has rerecorded the "Betty's Diner" track and used it as a centerpiece for the new album, which is populated with diners -- a gay pastor, a recovering addict, an abused housewife, a single mother, a redneck cook, a convenience store clerk working on a GED. The result is a painting of the American milieu that's anything but a folksy Norman Rockwell, although her characters are just as sympathetic.
A practicing Quaker, Newcomer combines artistic endeavor with political activism and spiritual enterprise. She is an artist in residence at Emory University's Candler School of Theology; since 1997, she has made a practice of donating 10 percent of concert album sales to charitable causes. Her current tour will support Second Harvest, the nation's largest food bank network.
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