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Take three of the best singer/songwriters in America. Add twelve great songs written by some of the most celebrated (and some of the most obscure) songwriters in the US and Canada. Record a record with a bunch of friends (Williams' touring band, producer Darleen Wilson and Larry Campbell- guitar wizard for Bob Dylan and k.d. lang). Book a whirlwind tour of the US with any number of those same writers opening the shows. And then stand back.Cry Cry Cry is Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, and Lucy Kaplansky. "I had a vision of an album that would cover the back roads of the United States and Canada," says Williams, "with material by artists who had been influenced by everything from traditional folk music to post-modern literature. Richard said, `why don't we just do an album of songs we love?' Lucy, the therapist," says Williams, "didn't take sides; she let the Process happen."

Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, and Lucy Kaplansky are three of the brightest lights on the American songscape today. Williams has developed a fervent audience- according to Pollstar one of the Top 50 grossing touring artists of the first part of 1998. Williams toured with Lilith Fair and "Real Life Songs" (Williams, Bruce Cockburn, and Richard Thompson), appeared on the Conan O'Brien show, and recently scored a song on the soundtrack for the Sherman Alexi film,Smoke Signals. Shindell won the 1998 American Federation of Independent Music (formerly NAIRD) "Contemporary Folk Album of the Year" for his stunning Reunion Hill (beating out such heavy hitters as John Prine, Guy Clark, Bruce Cockburn, and Greg Brown). Kaplansky's two Red House releases The Tide (produced by Shawn Colvin) and Flesh and Bone have gained her notice far beyond her magnificent harmony vocals on albums by Colvin, Nanci Griffith, and Suzanne Vega. "Easily one of the best albums of the year," wrote the Associated Press of Flesh and Bone.

The result is a wonderfully complex, rootsy album. REM's elliptical "Fall on Me" stands next to Canadian James Keelaghan's chilling narrative about the deaths of fourteen fire-jumpers, "Cold Missouri Waters." Ron Sexsmith's delicate "Speaking with the Angel" is juxtaposed with "Shades of Grey," Robert Earl Keen's scruffy tale of small-time ne'er do wells mistaken for the Oklahoma City bombers.

Williams, Shindell, and Kaplansky have chosen material based on quality rather than on notoriety. Greg Brown's pean to despondency, "Oh Lord I Have Made You a Place in My Heart" ("so take a good look and then leave") receives an austere, Carter-family reading, while Julie Miller's "By Way of Sorrow" comes across as joyful, Celtic-influenced catharsis. But while those artists are well respected in the world of contemporary singer/songwriters, Cry Cry Cry has also tapped artists considerably more obscure. Leslie Smith, a homemaker and part-time performer from Pittsburgh (who records for Waterbug, the tiny Chicago-based songwriter label on which Williams originally released her debut album), is represented by the bracing a capella "Northern Cross," a song as lonely as a windswept Applachian mountainside.

"Comradery and mutual respect is one thing that happens in the singer/songwriter world that usually doesn't occur in other areas of musical endeavor," wrote The Album Network in their glowing review of Cry Cry Cry, going on to praise the album as "beautifully touching." That respect and spirit of collaboration colors the whole of Cry Cry Cry: three of the top singer/songwriters of today joining together to honor the work of others. And it's a project that is meeting with immediate acceptance. #2 most added at the Americana format and #3 most added at A3 (behind U2 and Alanis Morissette) in its first week at radio (despite its not being as "twangy" as Americana tends to be nor as corporate as A3). The highest new-album debut of the week at non-com radio, at number 25 (if you don't tend to follow radio minutia, all you need to know is that those numbers are very good). A tour booked up months in advance, with solid ticket sales three months out based solely on word-of-mouth! These three artists have crafted stellar reputations among music fans, and Cry Cry Cry is proving to be one of the most hotly-anticipated shows on many a calendar.

This is one of the richest albums of the year. Cry Cry Cry is a wonderfully rewarding, beautifully crafted tribute to the vibrancy of a contemporary world where music and poetry meet.