CD: Holly Near & emma’s revolution’s “We Came to Sing!”

(Calico Tracks Music, 2009):

The title says it all.

While both Holly Near and emma’s revolution (the duo of Pat Humphries and Sandy O) are known as much for their dedication to social and political justice as they are for their empowering musical talents and songwriting skills, this collaboration is really all about harmony.

Beautiful, close vocal harmonies that lift the ballads on wings without undercutting the determination of the politically minded selections.

Naturally, those vocal harmonies come into focus most sharply on the a cappella selections, And there are quite a number of them, including the opening “Listen to the Voices,” the rich “Sky Dances,” the rousing “1,000 Grandmothers” and “Fired Up.” The stand-out a cappella selection, however, is the trio’s gorgeous, surprisingly meditative arrangement of the classic “Study War No More, which wraps up the album in exqusite fashion.

But the album isn’t entirely a cappella. Humphries’ simple frailing banjo supports the traditional “Sail Away Ladies.” Jan Martinelli‘s bass slinks through “Ministry of Oil.” And subtle guitar and percussion helps carry other selections.

And while Near handles the bulk of the songwriting chores, Humphries’ anthemic “Swimming to the Other Side” – also included on emma’s revolution’s 2006 CD, “Roots, Rock & Revolution” – simply soars on this disc.

emma’s revolution steps into the spotlight at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs at 7pm Sunday (January 17). Opening the show is Left on Red – the duo of Liah Alonso and Kelly Halloran.

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