Indiana Historical Society
Thursday, June 10
Carrie Newcomer is worth braving tornado warnings. Last Thursday at the Indiana Historical Society Canal Concert, her vivid lyrics and adroit music, coupled with her fetching down-home, sharp-edged stage presence, bounced right off the scattered showers, except for a 15-minute break when it was smarter to detach the electronics. When Carrie sings about the folks in and about “Betty’s Diner,” it feels like you know them, have been there and experienced it all first-hand. Her characters come alive with hard questions hoping for easy answers. There’s bite to the smaltzy “will you love me when ...” followed by a litany of aging not so gracefully. When is it, how is it you decide to “be best of friends”?
She’s great with one-liners, especially when describing herself and her family. “I’m the only Irish Amish I know ... [beat] ... except for my sisters.” Fishing with her father is another story.
Newcomer travels a lot, and she brings home the souvenirs of keen observations and listening. Regionalisms are flavorful, yet it’s the personal universalities that nurture. It’s looking at yourself, knowing you’re not perfect yet acknowledging the flip side — neither are you boring — and concluding, “I’m just fine like I am.” Makes you want to post those lyrics in conspicuous places so people of all ages can get with the program. If I like myself, I’m more likely to like you and less likely to commit harm.
And that brings us to the Carrie causes, of which there are many. The most significant seems to be her ability to recognize “the world is full of the finest people.” By the time you fold your chair or blanket, or gather up your stuff from the reserved tables, you feel a bit full of that positive philosophy. You notice that other person, a stranger, you’ve ignored and uncharacteristically smile, speak a greeting. You head home with a lighter step. Carrie Newcomer may be short in stature, but she’s tall in what makes folk music resonate — looking up to the best in us. “Everywhere I go I meet these amazing people. It keeps my hope alive.”