Holly Near

Sky Dances

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After three albums recorded with other artists and an album of soft-rock love songs, Holly Near's fans might have expected her finally to return to writing an album's worth of politically conscious songs. Sky Dances did contain some political material, but not much of it was written by Near. Instead, she covered songs by such peers and predecessors as Bruce Cockburn, Ferron, Ruben Blades, Phil Ochs, and Malvina Reynolds. In her autobiography, she briefly described the album as being "about life and death." There was certainly plenty of the latter, as she sang about the death of her father, AIDS, and other tragedies. Accompanied by pianist John Bucchino with a few other discreet instruments here and there, the usually vibrant Near performed in a low-key, mournful manner, especially when singing Ochs' "No More Songs," ominously the last song he had sung on his last album. With Near writing fewer and fewer songs herself, you had to wonder what that implied.

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