Carrie Newcomer

Betty's Diner: The Best of Carrie Newcomer

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Artist-chosen best-of recordings can be problematic because though in some way the artist is uniquely qualified to know what worked and what didn't, she isn't always party to the knowledge of what connects with audiences. This 17-track best-of is rather strange. For those who are unacquainted with the work of Carrie Newcomer, there is little incentive to purchase this. Like many of her peers, Newcomer takes herself very seriously in virtually every song she writes, and her delivery is that of the "classic" impassioned and intimate, post-1970s singer/songwriter. If it comes off as narcissistic, that's because it is impossible to write songs like this without being so. The reliance on individual discovery and revelation is a bit insular even as it tries to engage the world outside, hence making her oeuvre a shelf of politically correct (the 20th century's inadvertent contribution to cultural censorship), granola-coated relativist spiritual observations about life in the process of being lived every day, with only tiny, incongruant messes revealed for the like-minded listener to garner requisite empathy for. In other words, don't look for challenges to any real status quo here, left, right or center. However, there are literally legions of listeners for whom this music comes off as sincere, honest, and drenched in truth, and one would have a hard time arguing with them because Newcomer is about as far from cynical as you can get. For these people, this collection will come off as a treasure trove, with a few items that perhaps should have been included, left off, and some on that should have been left off, but that is the standard quibble with such collections. Newcomer's generosity as an artist does come off in spades and off-kilter as she opens the album with three unreleased songs unique to this set, giving the faithful who have bought her nine previous outings something special for their money. As is evidenced by the track list, Newcomer has a way of seeing her work holistically and as a continuum, and her selections reflect this, along with a wry sense of humor and her obvious spiritual and social convictions.

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