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LOU's VIEWS: Print Newcomer pens poems, essays

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Lou Harry

Since her first album in 1991, I’ve been listening to Carrie Newcomer sharing her musical reflections on the ordinary, lending her rich alto to songs less interested in stories than in moments.
 

ae-a-permeable-life-cover-for-kindle-1col.jpg (© 2013 Carrie Newcomer/Available Light Publishing. Designed by Hugh Syme.)

“You never talk too much in a fishin’ boat/’Cause it just scares the fish away/You just give it time and watch your line” she sang in a personal favorite, “My Father’s Only Son.” That sense of in-the-moment-ness has permeated her more than a dozen discs.

In conjunction with the Bloomington-area artist’s latest recording, “A Permeable Life,” Newcomer has also released a book, “A Permeable Life: Poems & Essays” (Available Light Publishing), which begs the question: How do Newcomer’s words hold up without that meditative, calming voice?

Newcomer says in the preface that she writes “poetry and essays to find the shape and form of the thing, and from those writings my songs are born.” As such, these on-page pieces can sometimes feel more like the emptying of a notebook than complete works.
 

ae-carrie-everything-is-everywhere-black-jacket-guitar-15col.jpg Carrie Newcomer (Photo/Jim McGuire)

But there are other moments in print that stand alone just fine, not as preliminary anything and not in need of a singing voice. “The Blue Umbrella” is a clear-eyed appreciation of a moment in the rain. “Three Gratitudes” could be just a variation on “My Favorite Things” but for its playful disregard for the number in its title. And although its last lines aren’t necessary, “Holiday Checkout Line” captures a wonderfully observed common moment in a memorable way.

ae-newcomer-factbox.gif On the essay side, stand-outs include some deeper thinking on the natural cliché of the caterpillar transforming into a butterfly and a knowing look at a county fair that would make me try to wrangle Newcomer into writing a State Fair essay every year if I were assigning such things. And there’s a surprisingly blunt but ultimately introspective piece set at a music trade show titled “Time is Kinder to Poets than Rockers.”

As for the new disc, it’s got all the heart and subtle songwriting savvy we’ve come to expect from Newcomer. It includes a guest spot by Lily & Madeleine on “The Ten O’clock Line.” And while it doesn’t treat new territory like Newcomer’s India-inspired and infused “Everything is Everywhere” or develop around a theme like the diner-centric “Regulars and Refugees,” it’s got plenty to chew on. Just one example: “Writing You a Letter,” which haunts with “…every place I go leaves its own tattoo./That’s how it is laying stone on stone/Building little alters by the side of the road.”

Like the discs that came before, the sincerity of “A Permeable Life” is matched by its musical savvy. Its lack of cynicism is inspiring. Yes, it offers variations on previously explored themes, but I don’t think those of us who appreciate Newcomer turn to her for the exploration of new territory but, rather, for the voice she gives to the places she knows well.

“All the things that have been done/Have been done/All the things that have not been done/Have not been done/” she sings in “Thank You, Good Night,” “And all the things I’m sad/And I’m glad to know/I’ll breathe it out and I’ll let it go.”•
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This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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