Picks and Pans Review: Between Us

updated 03/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

Jules Shear

When he conceived MTV's Unplugged series, his intention was to showcase subtleties of song-writing that were sometimes lost in the big beat and bombast of electric rock and roll. Now 39-year-old singer-songwriter Jules Shear attempts something of the same with this album of duets featuring a diverse roster of singers including Carole King, Paula Cole, Rosanne Cash, Cowboy Junkies singer Margo Timmins, rising folk stars Freedy Johnston and Ron Sexsmith and even former Cowsills vocalist Susan Cowsill. Inspired by "Writers in the Round," a series of performances with fellow singer-songwriters that he hosted at New York City's Bottom Line music club last year, Shear wrote these 15 songs as duets, most of which chronicle sinking or sunken relationships. With spare, lovely backing by Shear on guitar and accompaniment from mandolin and violin master David Mansfield, bassist Rob Wasserman and others, the album showcases his guests' emotion-charged vocals as well as Shear's own gift for honing knowing, love-worn lyrics. (High Street)

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