Cris & Holly

Cris Williamson

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Cris & Holly Review

by William Ruhlmann

Cris Williamson and Holly Near have been singing together in one way or another for so long that it's hard to believe it took them until 2003 to do an album together. The result is both a look back at that shared history and an examination of the present. Near acknowledges that the first of these was the original intention: "Our first thought was more a skinny-dip in nostalgia." September 11, 2001, seems to have changed that, however, and while some of the nostalgia remains, so do reflections on current concerns. The nostalgia frames things well, however. The album begins with the two singers duetting on one of the better songs by another of their colleagues, Meg Christian's "Valentine Song," and it ends with "Memory Lane Medley," on which Near reprises old favorites "Imagine My Surprise" and "Fire in the Rain," while Williamson chimes in with "Sweet Woman" and "Waterfall." In between, there are some other revivals, among them Near's "Mountain Song" and Williamson's "On Going," as well as powerful covers of strong songs by other women, including Joni Mitchell's "The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms)" and Jane Siberry's "Bound by the Beauty." All are good to hear, but the most striking material is found among the new songs, Near's re-commitment to the movement that is "I Am Willing," an anthem deliberately reminiscent of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?," and Williamson's reflection on the same subject in the story song "We the People." (Near's pianist, John Bucchino, contributes an excellent original in the sadder, wiser "I've Learned to Let Things Go," effectively sung by Williamson.) These songs suggest that a Williamson/Near album made up entirely of new songs might have been a real winner. They tend to cast the rest of this mixed effort in the shade, even though it will appeal to each singer's longtime fans.

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