Fire And Fure

Cris Williamson And Tret Fure Deliver An Inspirational Message.
By Molly Who

AN ENDURING LOVE affair with music--and each other--characterizes the steadfast quality of Cris Williamson and Tret Fure. As musicians and poets, each brings a range of unique contributions to the duo. As a couple, their 15-year relationship stands as a model of heart-based commitment. Even the harshest cynic can find an inspirational message that love not only perseveres, but grows.

Music Williamson's name is immediately identifiable to many. Acoustic and folk music fans are familiar with her 20-year span of live performance and recorded works. Even if your love for music is less specific to genre, you're likely to have heard or read about her at some time. She holds a venerable and historic place in music history as one of the mothers of "women's music." The movement, which grew out of the folk scene in the '70s, offered the plain-speaking style that's smoothed the road for the rising popularity and broad success of contemporary women artists.

With a strong love of nature, a commitment to the land and humanity, and a constant unveiling of personal experience, Williamson has remained a constant in the independent music genre. That's not an easy thing to do--it requires authentic tenacity as well as a passion for the art.

"If I give up," she says, "some inherent weakness will take over and I'll never get up again. I'll have believed for one moment that I can't do something."

If strength is dictated by vision, then certainly Tret Fure's growth is about strength as well as medicine. "As soon as I start performing I feel well," she says. "I can breathe."

Fure has worn a variety of hats in the music business. Aside from her talents as a singer and instrumentalist, she holds the distinction of being one of the first women sound engineers in the U.S. It was during the recording of a Williamson project that the two women met, and the profound relationship that's resulted is obvious to anyone who sees them perform.

On just this tour alone, Williamson and Fure have noticed a turn-around in the types of audiences that are turning out for their performances. While the dominant fan base tends to be women between 40 and 60, there's a rise in younger women.

"A lot of young women now have their own icons," says Williamson. "I think that's wonderful! It indicates we were successful in sticking to our point that women can make great music." Another exciting development is that more men are showing up. "This whole stretch has had lots of men coming. It's so nice to have them."

Fure agrees: "People need to know that everyone is welcome."

Williamson and Fure have a wonderful give-and-take banter that reflects the chemistry of their partnership. Their latest CD, Between the Covers, is a perfect example of that chemistry. The songwriting is both thoughtful and joyous, the musical arrangements varying in style from folk to light rock--with even a touch of reggae in the CD's opening cut, "Please Say."

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the new CD is its intimacy. From two artists already well known for being candid, this CD reaches a new level of personal candor:

It's the whole/it's the heart/it's the heart of the matter/it's a great revelation when you know that you can't live/Without love.

Love, and the sensual world, are the themes that dominate Between the Covers. Even cuts that are more fragile and vulnerable, such as Fure's "Paper Thin," come with a healthy dose of optimism:

The sword of my choosing/cuts away to the bone/Too close to the heart and the eye/I fight for the sun.

Williamson and Fure share an ability to take the personal and make it global, and vice versa. What's refreshing about the music is that while much of it deals with feminist and humanist issues, it does so in a sensitive fashion, without proselytizing. Williamson says:

"I do fuss, I see things and I fuss at them. I'm not a willing victim. I kick and buck and snort and paw and do everything I can to point at places that need help."

And helping is a very significant part of the vision. Not only have the two women contributed to the ongoing independent work of other musicians through the Olivia Records label, but they've made significant philanthropic gifts to the world, particularly that of children.

What started as a concert for children with HIV and AIDS inspired a network of people and at least two programs with lasting impact. One, Camp Colors, is a summer camp that now works with LaSalle College for Women in Massachusetts. Once a year for a week, HIV-positive children and kids with AIDS get to experience summer camp.

"We once helped a mother in Iowa who adopted a baby with HIV." Williamson goes on to point out that "there are a lot of lesbians adopting HIV babies, loving them for their life, with a life that's full of love. It's so moving."

This level of compassion can only come from people who've done a lot of living as well as given a lot of careful consideration to what that living has to teach. In terms of the music, and each other, Williamson is concise:

"This is for life. This is for the long run. This is not a meteoric rise and fall. The other choice is to quit...and that's not a choice for us."

Cris Williamson and Tret Fure perform at 8 p.m. Friday, March 14, at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway. All seating is reserved. Tickets are $15 and $17, available at Antigone Books, Hear's Music, and Girlfriends Coffeehouse and Book Store. Call 327-4809 for tickets and information. TW

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