Woodstock's Jules Shear and Pal Shazar are both acclaimed artists; the Bangles and Cyndi Lauper scored hits with his tunes, she's a successful novelist/songwriter/painter. Married for umpteen years, they've each released numerous solo albums, on which neither has shied away from "romantic turmoil" material. On Shear Shazar, for the first time, they cowrite and duet on all songs, offering a look at the steadfast love that's weathered that turmoil. To tell the story, they've combined Shazar's penetrating lyrics and unorthodox chord-play with Shear's classic melodicism and elegant turns of phrase, resulting in pleasant friction here, sparks there, even some touching dissonance.
Producer Julie Last (she worked on Double Fantasy—of course) conjures a spare, Americana-chamber pop atmosphere, dialing in just enough of Ross Rice's delicate piano, Anthony "Fooch" Fucilli's keening fiddle, and Kyle Esposito's nimble acoustic to accentuate the hooky tunes. The focus, however, is on the two burnished voices, each harmony integral to the melody. "Beauty to My Bones," with its minor-key shadows, acknowledges sins overcome in a lover's forgiving embrace. On the sprightly "See That Star," Shear defiantly states his disregard for "anyone's approval" except Shazar's, noting the past is "a million miles away," then entwines with Shazar on the chorus, joyfully singing, "No one understands." "Silent Movie" and "Passion Flowers" find Shear and Shazar casting inevitable downtimes as part of a greater whole, gracefully allowing pain into a house built on a sturdy foundation. It's a house you'll leave inspired, wanting to return again.