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Jules Shear - Between Us
(High Street)

Underappreciated pop songwriting genius Jules Shear takes a folkier turn than usual on Between Us. Comprised of fifteen acoustic duets with hipster friends like Paula Cole, Amy Rigby, and Angie Hart of Frente!, the record is a departure from his last couple of PolyGram efforts. In other words, itís an album that fits in a little too well on High Street Records, a division of the New Age music mavens Windham Hill; if thereís an electric guitar in the house, itís well-hidden.

So, those expecting a snappy tune ŗ la "All Through The Night," "If She Knew What She Wants," or any Shear compositions of less popular note will find none quite like that here. There are more subdued moments of fun, though. "On These Wheels Again," sung with Suzzy Roche, is a fun, old-timey on-the-road song in which Jules urges his traveling companion to find something better on the radio or else put on a Jimmie Rodgers tape. Lost love is lamented repeatedly, to best effect on "Whoís Dreaming Who," on which Rosanne Cash steals the show, and "Itís All Over But The Smoke," with Ron Sexsmith. Carole King sounds pretty good on "How Many Times," too. Though Shear is a songwriterís songwriter, heís never been considered a singerís singer, and at times on Between Us heís way overshadowed vocally. A solid piece of songcraft it is; it just leaves some rocking to be desired.

YEAH YEAH YEAH, 1998