Last year, my roommate and I were amazed to discover that we both were enthralled by the secret pleasure-pain of being driven to tears by the songs of Dar Williams. Now Williams has teamed up with Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell to form the appropriately named group Cry Cry Cry. However, the collaboration has diffused the piercing emotion of her songs in favor of presenting a broader acoustic terrain.
One need not read the elaborately pedagogical liner notes to notice the overarching mission shaping their debut album. From the opening notes of a cover of REM’s “Fall on Me” through versions of “Speaking with the Angel” by Ron Sexsmith and “Lord, I Have Made You a Place in My Heart” by Greg Brown, it is clear that the songs are not only collaborations among these three traditionally solo singer-songwriters but also represent an effort on their parts to bring together the disparate—and often unrecognized—strains of contemporary folk.
As is too often the case with such odes, this album would be better described as pleasant than as stunning. The quiet guitar and three-part vocals are stereotypical rather than quintessential folk, even in the musicians’ artful rendition of Buddy Mondlock’s frequently covered “The Kid” or the a capella “Northern Cross,” which almost succeeds in its transparent aspirations of haunting harmonies. A generous gesture toward strengthening the folk community, this album may pique a bit of interest in otherwise overlooked artists and songs but falls short of inspiring devotion to the genre.