Chicks With Guitars

Not a fetish. Just an appreciation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


In this crazy world we live in, morality has become a political issue and the idea of virtue so distorted that no one really knows what any of it means anymore.
But a young singer/songwriter with a background in organic agriculture has taken it upon herself to take us back to the good old days — and she’s talking older than the 1950s.

To Adrienne Young, it’s everyday choices - not grand gestures - that add up to a virtuous life, and she’s crafted her sophomore album, “The Art of Virture,” around that concept.

“A lot of it was in the frustration I felt in regard to the last presidential election,” she said in a phone interview as she crawled
through New York City traffic. “So I wanted to go back and find out when and where 'family values’ and 'virtue’ had been defined.”

She went all the way back to Ben Franklin and his book “Thirteen Virtues” (justice, frugality and humility, to name three that are conspicuously lacking in our political leaders).

“It seems like environmental consciousness, peace, education, taking care of our own seem like family values to me, not what we see in our current administration,” she said. “It seemed like Ben Franklin was dealing with a lot of the same things.”

It becomes a national problem, Young believes, because people have been raised to honor our leaders and our elders, and while some people will cling to that loyalty even though they know in their hearts it’s not right, others will feel a growing sense of hopelessness.

“You begin to wonder if your vote really matters because you don’t know if it’s being counted in the first place,” she said.

“This record is my attempt to contribute to the common good. We have the opportunity to make choices that will lift each other up and I believe that Ben Franklin provided a practical way to improve moral character.”

Yet the album is not heavy-handed or didactic in its approach, but uses stories to convey the message.

“If you want to reach people, you do it through their hearts, through laughter and joy,” she said. “When people are preached to and yelled at, they just recoil, but a message of love and unconditional acceptance can connect with people at the level of the soul.”

Thursday, September 08, 2005


By Richard O Jones

Even though Carrie Newcomer titled her “Best of” last year after a new song on the set, “Betty’s Diner,” she didn’t know how much that fictional place would take over her life.

“The diner people weren’t done with me,” she said of the characters who populate “Regulars and Refugees,” the literary follow-up of 13 new songs and a remix of “Betty’s Diner.”

“It’s not really a concept album or even something that I set out to do,” she said. “It just evolved out of the stories I’d been writing.”

While the characters are as fictional as the setting, the ideas are culled from her life, which happens to include a stint as a waitress in a diner a lot like Betty’s.

“Alice and Roy were inspired by a couple at my Quaker meeting,” Newcomer said. “It’s not their story, but I’ve always been inspired by their long-time love.”

Although she considers herself a songwriter, not a novelist or fiction writer, Newcomer said that she likes to write and tell stories, and these songs have come from that impulse. The booklet accompanying the CD package of “Regulars and Refugees” contains passages of her fiction, particularly those sections that inspired particular songs.

“Song-writing is a concise way of storytelling,” she said. “There’s no room for filler; it has to be poetic and clean.

“I believe a lot of 'Betty’s Diner’ is an attempt on my part to process the experience of so many years on the road and the many places and human stories I’ve encountered,” she said. “I definitely agree with Gabriel in the song 'Angels Unaware’ who says, 'I’ve never met a person yet without a tale to tell.’

“As an itinerant singer-songwriter, I see places and meet people very close up. I end up having these very personal, intense windows on the world.

“This is not a pretentious place and these are not pretentious people,” she said. “This is a diner in southern Indiana. This is the kind of place where they tell you they have three vegetable sides and one of them is applesauce.”

She recorded nearly 30 songs written from the “Betty’s Diner” characters, choosing the 13 that made the best record, not necessarily the 13 best songs, so the diner people may not be done with her yet.


Laura Veirs calls her latest album, “Year of Meteors,” a “road record” even though there’s no direct mention of her travels as a singer/songwriter.

But the songs, she said, were inspired by being in constant motion for much of 2004, touring in support of the critically acclaimed “Carbon Glacier,” her first album for Nonesuch Records.

“All the songs are about transportation, motion,” Veirs said. “If you listen to the words, there’s always some movement happening, whether it’s greyhounds running down a mountainside as mud flows or a person flying off into the sun or someone lurking around the bottom of the sea.

“I think that’s because I was in motion so much of the year. Somehow I knew that all the traveling would come into the songs, but I wanted to remain focused on the bigger things, not just life on the road, so that’s why there are no direct references to that.”

Veirs, who was raised in Colorado Springs, was more involved in sports and outdoor activities than music, but the interest was there, waiting to surface.

In college, she studied geology and Mandarin Chinese, and it was on a collegiate geological expedition in the desert of northwest China when she had an epiphany, realizing that her future would be in singing, writing and playing the guitar.

The scientist still comes through in her work, though — lending sharp, precise edges to otherwise impressionistic lyrics.

“I love when I can write a lyric that brings a clear image to mind,” Veirs said. “That’s kind of what I’m striving for. This album has a lot of stuff from the sky — stars, meteors, galaxies — and a lot of stuff from the sea: birds floating in the air or on water, eels and sea grass at the bottom of the sea.

“For some reason, those things don’t sound scientific and removed to me,” she said.

“They sound vivacious and raw and pure and essential to life. Somehow I hope I can gather my appreciation for those things and translate that through myself, through my songs, keeping a reference to the human aspect, the human experience.”