CD Review - Jules Shear and Pal Shazar "Shear Shazar"
When you search for the new Jules Shear and Pal Shazar album Shear Shazar on Amazon it'll pop up just fine, but mid-page you see this: Results for "shear
shazar" (see all 202, 691 results). And beneath that you'll get to choose and click between the two featured items, which are the Wusthof 5558 Kitchen Shears or the Tweezerman 2000 Clippers. Once you decide that you want music more than a haircut, click on Shear Shazar. Now add it to your cart, put in your credit card information, wait until the postman rings twice and get ready to listen to one great album. Repeat as needed.
I believe my work here is done.
Okay, you want more. I get it. You need a reason. The official recommendation. Samples and examples. Maybe some history and biography (click here for that). What you really need to know is that if you buy this album, will your life be better? Ask yourself...can it get any worse? Probably not. Ergo, nothing to lose.
You need more? Really?
I am extremely biased. With hero worship for all things Jules Shear, and a recent internet relationship with his wife Pal Shazar who is as bright, personable and warm as she is creative, it would take a complete left turn like recording a hip hop album for me not to love this. And I'll tell you a little secret: it is infinitely better than I had either hoped for or expected.
Husbands and wives. Roger Miller wrote a song called that. Jules covered it.
A woman and a man, a man and a woman
Some can and some can't and some can
I sure couldn't. Twice. So the concept of having this life partner with their own path tracking alongside yours, and sort of converging on a creative basis after so many years together, seems so...dangerous. I could barely navigate a greeting with my ex. Jules and Pal didn't just dip their toes, they jumped naked into the cold water. All songs written together. This is a partnership. They sing t-o-g-e-t-h-e-r. They harmonize. They each take lead. Not an album where he sings one song, and she sings the next. My friends, this is called a collaboration.
The angry words, spoken in haste
Such a waste of two lives
It's my belief, pride is the chief cause and the decline
In the number of husbands and wives
I keep coming back to Mr. Miller's words. In my mind's eye I try to think about how Jules and Pal managed to create this work and survive. Julie Last produced Shear Shazar, and she has a long pedigree of engineering and production credits that can give you goosebumps. Ono/Lennon, Joni and Neil, the Clash, Eno, T-Heads, Shawn Colvin and many more. Add in Jules' unique guitar work (left-handed, upside down, thumb barring chords...just plain weird), and add Rick Norman and Kyle Esposito on guitars to the mix. Adam Egizi on bass, Ross Rice on keyboards, Anthony "Fooch" Fucilli on pedal steel and violin, Dan Hicky and Tim Whalen on skins and cellist Abby Newton. Mr. Norman adds mandolin, Ms. Shazar plays harmonica and Mr. Shear came up with the string arrangements.
Stop...what the hell does it sound like? This is "See That Star".
Surprisingly, I find it to sound incredibly like an album you would expect Jules to make with Pal in a Bearsville or Woodstock studio. Acoustic bedrock layered with woodsy tones and touches of tasteful amplification, country twang, almost classical-like strings, warm earthy vocals, harmonies that don't sound like harmonies, lyrics of intelligence and humor, music for grown ups and for those who sometimes wish they were.
Something else...this is a big album in a small box. Self-distributed, a homegrown vibe, and they are whispering instead of screaming. Slow and easy. So shhh... Jules and Pal have made me a very happy human. They have given us the gift of a simply incredible album.
Oh...the most important piece of information: the dog is sitting inside the guitar case on the back of the album. And the website not only gives you the option to purchase and receive a signed copy of the CD, but also offers the lyrics for each song, done by Pal like this one below. (Pal's own website is full of her beautiful art. Take time. Visit.)