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Pop: This Week's Album Releases - Cry Cry Cry Cry Cry Cry (Razor & Tie)

"OUR RECORDING is but a cubic yard of dirt with 12 bright flowers and a lot of timothy grass growing out the top," writes Dar Williams in the liner-notes to this, her collaboration with Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell. I've no idea about the timothy grass, but the 12 songs here do indeed bloom with an enigmatic lustre, largely thanks to the trio's harmonies, which can be tender one moment and carry the astringency of traditional British folk singing the next. The writing, which ranges from popular material by REM and Ron Sexsmith to lesser-known but equally incisive pieces by James Keelaghan and Nerissa Nields, is superb throughout, a series of tales and tableaux working poignantly through themes of morality, mercy, memory and loss.

It's a beautiful but emotionally harrowing journey; few eyes will remain dry as the trio approach the unbearable pathos of Nields's "I Know What Kind of Love This Is" and Shindell's own "Ballad of Mary Magdalen" which, by viewing the Gospel from the woman's point of view, manages to raise more questions about Christianity than a month of Synods.