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Various Artists | Shanti Project Collection 2 (Badman)
This sumptuously packaged (think 4AD), narrowly focused conflation of mellow troubadours sates your urge for public service while satisfying your desire for angelically rendered melancholy. The Shanti Project works to improve the lives of those suffering with AIDS, and has joined forces (for a second time) with Badman in releasing a benefit record featuring material from some of the finest contemporary female singer-songwriters. Mimi Parker, Kristen Hersh, Paula Frazer, Rebecca Gates, Edith Frost, and Melissa Auf der Mahr each contribute two original songs (or in Frazer's case, one original and a Scott Walker cover duetted with Mark Eitzel). The lone anomaly to this format is Julie Doiron's contribution of three originals. Should this be surprising, though? Doiron's subtle, arpeggiated touches on electric guitar, and heart-in-throat, half-choked vocal delivery consistently amaze and impress. Doiron is so perfectly connected with the emotions she documents, it's as if she has tapped directly into the viscous pathways of our unseen emotive systems. That Doiron is perhaps the least-known of the talents involved here goes a long way in showing how ineffective our national and international systems of musical exposure are. Not to belittle the efforts of all else involved, however, most of the afore-mentioned artists have fought (and are still fighting) hard won struggles to gain the recognition and exposure they so urgently need and deserve. Though none of the artists have taken this rare opportunity to risk exploring creative avenues outside their well-honed musical personas (Frazer being a possible exception, and this may not the type of release to be attempting such things anyhow), each has delivered, seemingly to the best of their collective abilities, a pair of well-recorded, lovingly performed songs to match the emotional terrain of the album concept.

G.C. Weeks
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001