Chicks With Guitars

Not a fetish. Just an appreciation.

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.


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