Carrie Newcomer’s music has always explored the intersection of the spiritual and the daily, the sacred and the ordinary. Over the course of her career she has become a prominent voice for progressive spirituality, social justice and interfaith dialogue. Her ability for sharp observation of the world lead 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.’” She has been described as “a soaring songstress” by Billboard, a “prairie mystic” by the Boston Globe and Rolling Stone has declared that Newcomer “asks all the right questions.” Author Barbara Kingsolver wrote, “She’s a poet, storyteller, snake-charmer, good neighbor, friend and lover, minister of the wide-eyed gospel of hope and grace.”
On November 13th, 2012, Rounder Records releases a new compilation of Carrie Newcomer music entitled Kindred Spirits: A Collection. This generous collection of 19 songs draws from Newcomer’s catalogue of 12 Rounder Records releases. It also includes two previously unreleased songs, two songs from her special hunger benefit project (Everything Is Everywhere) featuring Indian classical sarod masters Amjad Ali Khan, Ayaan and Amaan Ali Khan, as well as two currently unavailable live recordings. The two new songs, “The Speed of Soul” and “A Long Christmas Dinner” were recorded and produced by Newcomer, Robert Meitus and David Weber at Airtime Studios. “The Speed of Soul” is a poignant exploration of a more deliberate relationship to time in an increasingly fast-paced culture. “A Long Christmas Dinner” creates a portrait of life and family as part of an ongoing continuum. In the songs “I Believe,” “Geodes” and “Holy as a Day Is Spent,” Newcomer quietly and beautifully describes the presence of something extraordinary in the midst of our ordinary days. She sings, “God walks around in muddy boots, sometimes rags and that’s the truth” and “Folding sheets like folding hands, to pray as only laundry can.” “Before and After” explores the large and small experiences by which we mark our lives through a haunting duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter, resulting in a remarkable combination of two of acoustic music’s most rich and resonant females. “The Gathering of Spirits,” featuring Alison Krauss, is a clear voiced and crystalline celebration of this twinkling moment in time we call life.
Relating Kindred Spirits: A Collection, spirituality and songwriting, Newcomer writes “I am one of a growing number of people who don’t want to put the sacred in such a small container. I am disturbed that one very narrowly focused and extremely political brand of Christianity being called the ‘religious voice.’ There are wide communities of spiritual people who believe that walking this world in love and compassion is about feeding the hungry, providing for the poor or sick, caring for our elders, making sure that the table of love includes and welcomes everyone, educating our children and young people, honoring our beautiful and interconnected planet. These communities believe that women are equal spiritual beings, and that the highest and most honorable work is creating a less violent, more just and kind world. Isn’t a life of compassion bigger than a catch phrase or sound byte? Isn’t love wider and deeper than fear?” Speaking more to this point, she shares, “If a spiritual leader is teaching hate, it is not spiritual message, it is political message.”
On the topic of sacramental living Newcomer says, “We don’t live days, we live moments. In an ever-accelerating world that does not encourage reflection, presence has become a personal choice and decision. We will have to decide if our response to a limited amount of time is to speed up and never really be present, or to slow down to the speed of soul and savor what is momentary and now.”
“My most effective and powerful voice will always be my truest voice. We all know when a song is candy-coating things or just going for shock value. But when a song places its finger on the open palm of something true, it shakes the world just a little bit. Why would I want to do anything else as a writer, or as a person? Part of my work as a writer is to put into language and music moments of wonder that have no words.” The result is her latest release, Kindred Spirits: A Collection – a resonant soundtrack for a world that is both sacred and ordinary, reflective and forward thinking.
Prior albums include the critically acclaimed Before and After, The Geography of Light, Regulars & Refugees, The Age of Possibility, The Gathering of Spirits and The Betty’s Diner Collection. She has toured extensively throughout U.S. and Europe, and she has also toured with Alison Krauss. In 2003, Nickel Creek recorded Newcomer’s song “I Should’ve Known Better” on their Grammy-winning album This Side. She was listed as one of “the 50 most influential folk musicians of the past 50 years” by Chicago’s WFMT. In 2010, Carrie Newcomer was honored by the Indiana State Senate and House along with the cast of Wilderness Plots for special achievement in the arts.
In the fall of 2009 and 2011, Carrie was invited to tour India as a cultural ambassador for the American Embassy. As a result of her time there, in 2011 she released her fifteenth album, Everything is Everywhere, a collaboration with master of the Indian classical sarod, Amjad Ali Khan. A beautifully created fusion of east and west, the songs on Everything Is Everywhere were written to address what is unique and fascinating about our cultural differences and yet reach into the common human thread that pulls between us. The album was released as a benefit album for the Interfaith Hunger Initiative (IHI). IHI, an organization including faith leaders and laity of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh congregations, is dedicated to the common cause of providing for those most vulnerable in our communities. “In a time when we are encouraged to fear difference or diversity, Everything Is Everywhere was created as an alternative to fear and an affirmation of creative and compassionate engagement,” shares Newcomer.
In June 2012 she visited and performed in Kenya at the AMPATH public health program and Umoja Project school and sustainability program (in part supported by IHI). In Africa she performed in primary and secondary schools, performed at spiritual gatherings, visited homes and met with guardian and educational groups. She also performed at the Sally Test Children’s Center, Neema School for children living with HIV and the Eldoret School for Children with Disabilities, all as a large public concert at AMPATH/Moi Hospital.
In 2011 and 2012, Carrie joined Parker J. Palmer for a special collaboration called “Healing The Heart of Democracy: A Gathering of Spirits for the Common Good,” based on his book Healing the Heart of Democracy. This collaboration was designed to create a new political conversation and reclaim our common narrative.
Throughout her career, she has created several presentations and PBS specials and worked extensively with beloved authors, scientists and progressive theologians, including Barbara Kingsolver, Jill Bolte Taylor (Transformative Stories), Phillip Gulley (Home and Habitat), Marcus Borg, Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren and Scott Russell Sanders (Wilderness Plots, Myths Miracles, Lyrics and Lies, Four Friends).
Newcomer appears to have no performance and touring boundaries, as she seamlessly moves from country to country, performing in concert halls, acoustic clubs, colleges, churches, synagogues and convents; conducting workshops on vocation, arts, creative writing and progressive faith at universities, seminaries and high schools; writing and performing in theatrical productions; and volunteering for environmental and social justice fundraisers. She’s comfortable as an artist and speaker in situations as diverse as concerts at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and London’s Royal Festival Hall; a performance for at-risk juveniles inside an Ohio courtroom (with judge, parole officer and parents present); and playing and conducting a workshops inside of an Indiana women’s penitentiary.
Carrie nationally and internationally facilitates workshops and presents keynotes on the topics of songwriting, spirituality and vocation at colleges, universities, and spiritual communities, retreat centers. Newcomer, a Quaker, cuts across secular and spiritual boundaries. In recent years, she has emerged as a respected and recognized artistic voice for the progressive spiritual community.
Carrie currently lives in the woods outside Bloomington, Indiana with her husband, Robert Meitus and two fuzzy rescue dogs.