As a musical artist devoted to using her talents in the service of left-wing social and political advocacy in a historical period with a distinctly rightward tilt, Holly Near has often had to demonstrate perseverance and to reaffirm her beliefs in the face of opposition. More than five years into the George W. Bush presidency, she does just that on her first solo album in six years. Her recognition that she is sailing against the wind comes out clearly in the title song, "Show Up," in which she asks herself and her listeners to hang on in the hope that things will get better. In her revised version of Laura Love's song "I Want You Gone Too," Near makes it clear, without naming names, who she wants to be rid of, adding, "We won't be after you only/We're talking most the congress, talking most the courts." Her enemies extend beyond the president and his party, however, to include those who victimize women worldwide ("Somebody's Jail") and the scourge of addiction (a socially conscious rewrite of the old sea chantey "Drunken Sailor"). Covers of Jackson Browne's "Lives in the Balance" and Jane Siberry's "Bound by the Beauty" address unnecessary foreign wars and environmental threats. Near finds time for issues of family ("Family Band") and romance ("It's About Time"), as well as a playful treatment of lesbian contentment (Eric Schwartz's "Hattie and Mattie"). She sings over arrangements that range from traditional pop to rock, most of them played lightly by a talented band. Some of this is material she has recorded before, albeit on duo albums with Ronnie Gilbert and Cris Williamson. But it represents a contemporary statement of her continuing values, which, in 2006, may seem no more likely to prevail in the country generally, but also seem likely to endure with advocates this articulate and persistent.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann