After spending most of the 1990s in a personal and professional partnership with fellow women's music singer/songwriter Cris Williamson, Tret Fure resumed her solo career in 2001 with her fifth album Back Home. She did not comment directly on the lapsed relationship, although songs on the album were full of allusions to overcoming emotional difficulties. On her sixth album My Shoes, however, she begins with a trio of songs that seem to address aspects of her personal past and present. (That is to say, in each song, there is a narrator, speaking in the first person, who appears to describe circumstances roughly correlated to the songwriter's own biography; maybe it's all fictional, who knows?) "L.A." is addressed by the singer to a former lover as well as a place the singer used to live. Yet she insists that the "flood of ancient memories" on which she is choking after a visit to Los Angeles has nothing to do with that old relationship and takes a philosophical viewpoint: "We come into this world screaming, we go out another door/And somewhere in the middle we find home." Even more pointed is the album's title song, which follows. It is addressed not to the former lover, but to others who apparently have made harsh judgments about the relationship's dissolution without knowing the facts. The singer acknowledges her own anguish about the end of a love she expected to last forever, but her point is the old cliché, until you've walked in somebody else's shoes, you don't know. Having dispensed with her past, her ex-lover, and her critics, she then sings "The Wedding Song," a celebration of a new relationship, and with that trilogy of songs out of the way is free to go on to a collection of more love songs, topical songs, memory songs, and on-the-road songs over the course of the rest of the album. Yet the issues raised at the outset never really dissipate. In "L.A.," Fure diminishes her lost relationship by repeating that her current life is "bigger than" that experience. This is echoed in the major on-the-road song, the grammatically challenged "Bigger Than I," in which she claims that her mission as a traveling singer/songwriter has greater significance than just art and entertainment. Fair enough. But that relates directly to the fans who, like fans of a Christian singer going through a divorce, may have seen the relationship between Fure and Williamson as "bigger than" just the two of them, as symbolizing the validity of lesbian love in a homophobic world and been correspondingly disappointed that it didn't last. Of course, that places an unfair burden on two mere human beings, but it may be fair game when those human beings are also public figures who travel around the country expressing their opinions in song. Fure opposes war in "Hawk and the Dove" (on an album released as the U.S. invaded Iraq), and writes eloquently of a murderous sexual predator in "Noel Evans," expecting and deserving to be taken as a serious social commentator. But you can't have it both ways; the public will judge public figures by their perceived actions as well as their statements, whether they've walked in their shoes or not. And then, too, the experience of a broken love affair, for a public or a private figure, can shake one's faith in romantic aspirations. Fure does not shy away from love songs here, pledging undying love in "The Wedding Song," but she acknowledges risk in "I Choose You," and in "How in the World" concludes, "It may not last forever, but it's worth it in every way." And that may be the best response to the critics she seems to have encountered. My Shoes is a thoughtful exploration of the complexities of love, loss, and memory by an intelligent, feeling woman whose observations are worth engaging.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann