Unicorn Preview: Carrie Newcomer: Gorgeous Music, Freshly Done

Carrie Newcomer sees life with great clarity.

After releasing 13 albums, touring with Alison Krauss and Union Station, and being named one of the 50 most influential folk musicians in the past 50 years, she still enjoys writing music more than anything else. And while some things have changed a lot over the years, she still is as fresh and innocent as she was when she started out.

The music writers have tried to make a pop star of her, sometimes even gushing that the dark qualities of her voice is as luxurious as Godiva chocolate, or the time she spent in India with musicians as the next coming of John Lennon’s Norwegian Wood, but Carrie Newcomer focuses on just two simple things, the music and the story. All the wonderful things that flow from that are a bonus.

She is the next gifted artist selected to play the intimate confines of the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, as part of the Berkshire Theatre Group’s continuing experimentation with matching offerings to their several venues. Just about everyone that has played the Unicorn has sold out, and left the crowd buzzing. Some things you have to take on faith these days, and Carrie Newcomer is one of them. Plus here’s a wonderful sample that will decide you one way or the other.

Carrie Newcomer arrives at The Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge on April 20 at 8pm accompanied by the accomplished pianist, Gary Walters.

One of the definitive voices of the Heartland, the Indiana native sings of the small joys and pains in life, emphasizing the little moments that are often taken for granted.Watching the video above, you feel as if she is singing about the Berkshires, the similarities are so many.

Overall, Newcomer is not afraid to take on serious subjects, and does so with a healthy measure of good humor and self-awareness. Her ability for sharp observation of the world led the Dallas Morning News to rave, “She’s the kind of artist whose music makes you stop, think and then say, ‘that is so true.’” As mentioned up top, her resonant voice is described by the Austin Statesman as being “as rich as Godiva chocolate.”

Newcomer has worked with many notable artists throughout her career. In 2010 she joined Mary Chapin Carpenter on her Age of Miracles, tour. She also toured with Alison Krauss and Union Station in Europe and the U.S. and recorded the title track of her 2002 The Gathering of Spirits album with Krauss. Newcomer’s song, “I Should’ve Known Better,” was recorded on Nickel Creek’s Grammy winning, gold-selling album, This Side. In 2007, Newcomer recorded a live concert DVD with folk legends Holly Near and Bernice Johnson Reagon, and was commissioned to write the YMCA national theme song. In 2008 The Geography of Light also earned her Artist of the Year and Album of the Year from Folk Wax Magazine.

But then she made a trip in which her life changed. That was in the fall of 2009, when Newcomer was invited by The American Embassy in India, to represent the U.S. as a cultural ambassador. She performed concerts for Indian audiences and young people involved with community service, taught workshops on song writing, community service, and met and performed with contemporary, traditional and classical Indian musicians. In 2010 Carrie recorded and performed with International Indian classical sarod master Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan and Ayaan. The album Everything is Everywhere, which includes these recordings, was released last year. The video above is one of the tracks.

Two of Newcomer’s twelve Rounder releases, The Geography of Light and Before and After, explore how we navigate the appearance of light and shadow in our lives, inviting the listener to slow down and reflect on the experiences that have changed and shaped our lives. The title track of Before and After features an unforgettably haunting and beautiful duet with special guest Mary Chapin Carpenter. In a world that encourages us to move faster and think bigger, Newcomer invites the listener to slow down and reflect on the small things that make life worthwhile. As Rolling Stone wrote, “Newcomer asks all the right questions and refuses to settle for easy answers.” Newcomer, a Quaker, says “I have a real fascination with the mystery, with the questions that have no answers.” She has facilitated writing and spirituality workshops at colleges, universities, retreat houses, and festivals throughout the country. Her work cuts across secular and spiritual boundaries, and she is one of a relatively few well-known singer-songwriters working within the progressive spiritual continuum.

Newcomer’s accompanying artist, Gary Walters has always maintained an active performing career, working in a variety of musical genres, with his first love being jazz. At home in Indianapolis, Walters works with the Icarus Ensemble, an eclectic five piece group made up of members of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. They perform original material written by Gary and other members of the group in a unique presentation that references jazz, world music and classical. Walters has also performed with national recording artists including Alan Vizutti, The Capitol Quartet, Byron Stripling, Jeff Tyzik, Victor Krauss, Urbie Green, Bobby Shew, Bebe Neuwirth, Leslie Uggams, Anne Peckham, Broadway touring companies of Will Rogers Follies, Grease, West Side Story, touring Oldies acts Martha Reeves, The Marvelettes, The Crystals, The Coasters, Gary U.S. Bonds, the late Bobby Helms and Dell Reeves.

Tickets to Carrie Newcomer on April 20 at 8pm are $30. Tickets may be purchased in person at The Colonial Theatre Ticket Office at 111 South Street Pittsfield, MA 01201 or by calling (413) 997-4444 or online at www.BerkshireTheatreGroup.org. The Ticket Office is open Monday-Friday 10am–5pm, Saturdays 10am–2pm or on any performance day from 10am until intermission. Tickets may also be purchased with cash at the Unicorn Theatre prior to the performance. The Unicorn Theatre Box Office, located at 6 East St. Stockbridge, MA 01262, will open one hour prior to the performance the day of the show and tickets are subject to availability.

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