Crystal Bernard

Don't Touch Me There

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Okay, the real test on this one is whether ex-Wings star Crystal Bernard can bring the title track across in a manner that demands seriousness instead of obvious chuckles. The surprise is that it is actually a haunting, breathtaking ballad concerning an abused woman who is standing up for herself for the first time. Bernard has done a greater deal of writing on Don't Touch Me There, her sophomore album, and has improved in nearly every way over her first album, Girl Next Door. It is nearly impossible not to take to Bernard's gentle but assured voice, though up until now she hasn't had such strong material to work with. "Something to Go On" reveals that, although she has country roots, her pop is impeccable. In fact, it should be noted that Bernard walks a fine line between country and pop, and therefore the album will appeal to fans of both. There is a lot of past love reminiscing and there is no sparing the agony of abandonment and regret. Whether saying goodbye to her non-communicative lover on "Hey" (a beautiful opener) or listening to an elderly Hollywood star speak her last words on "Gardenia," she is bringing together memorable music that tells stories and brings us through twisted emotions and shattered love lives before closing to a duet with father Jerry Bernard on the Jesus praising "If You Need a Touch." The gospel song (despite her father's living as a minister) is one of the bravest feats a popular artist has accomplished in recent years. Making an outright call to the son of God for help on an otherwise worldly album would be enough to turn many nonbelievers in the other direction. But the song is earned, not only because of how good it is, but because the rest of Don't Touch Me There is so brutally honest and endearing.

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