Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jules Shear & Pal Shazar: A New Record And Brief Q & A

Occasionally, my obsessive-compulsive behavior pays off, like that random period in 2008 when I had been thinking how there hadn't been any new music from Jules Shear in some time, so I googled his name somewhere in the high 200 times over the course of a few weeks, and much like finally pulling three of a kind on a slot machine, dialed up a listing for "More," Shear's fabulous last record. No fanfare or press releases, just good old-fashioned neurosis on my part.
Well, you can all be grateful that 5 years later, I'm just as loyal to the musicians I respect and still a little bit crazy. This time the spin was huge. As quietly as "More" slipped into our lives in 2008, longtime partners Jules Shear & Pal Shazar have released their very first collaboration, "Shear Shazar."


This record is a beauty. 10 songs about love & life from two very distinct and very brilliant singer-songwriters, "Shear Shazar" is more than just a welcome surprise. It deeply satisfies.

Pal & Jules were kind enough to spare some time for me and my questions.

Take a look.

ME: The first time I heard your voice Pal, was on the track "Here S/He Comes" from 1985's "Eternal Return" LP, and I immediately thought, "These guys are perfect together." Now, almost 30 years later, we get a full album's chance to hear just how wonderfully your voices lock with each other. You & Jules have that Everlys quality, or more recently that Gillian Welch and David Rawlings quality where the voices become one. When did you guys realize this and what made you finally decide to get this joint effort together?

PAL: That's funny you mention them. Just recently, I was listening to Don McLean on the radio playing his fave 45's. I was never into Don's music, but his radio voice is like licking ice cream. I was never into the Everly Brothers either. He played "Cathy's Clown" and I just loved it. He helped break through my aversion to their super clean sound. I have no idea how I sound to others. I am just very happy that my singing on this new record pleases Jules. I credit the timing of writing and recording this record to something other than us. I think maybe the stars were aligned.

ME:  Jules, like your covers record "Sayin' Hello To The Folks" and more recently 2008's More," the "Shear-Shazar" record seems to have stealthily slipped out. Is this a personal strategy or just the nature of the beast that the music business has become?

JULES: It's just not having a big front to let people know that it's coming. On the "Shear Shazar" album, we just recorded the album, then made it available. Seems pretty simple, huh? 

ME:  Speaking of "More," is it true that that record was supposed to be a "Jules & The Polar Bears" reunion album? If so, is that something that may still happen?

JULES: I don't plan on doing any "J&PB" albums in the near future. That is, we're not talking about it. If there was any thought about the group recording "More," it didn't get too far.

ME: Pal, how did the writing process take place for the new record? Did you both have songs written, or was it a true joint effort?

PAL: I told Jules I would give our dogs away if he didn't write new songs with me. That did the trick. He has a superior work ethic and once we decided to do this, we sat facing one another every day, guitar on his lap and me intensely staring at his hands as if I were trying to drag it out of him. We hummed and strummed and the songs came forth. We did that till we had too many songs for one record.

ME:  Can we expect any live dates in the NYC area?

PAL: We will be taping a "Live at The Living Room' for the XM series "The Loft' on Saturday, March 16.


ME: Jules, any chance of a "Demo-Itis 2?" Seems like a perfect project in this digital age. I can think of some unreleased gems I've heard over the years--- the Tommy Keene co-write "I'll Wait," "Within Myself," and that Marshall Crenshaw co-write the two of you performed at the Bottom Line for the "In Their Own Words" series that I still think about 25 years later and still don't know the name of.

JULES:  Well, I always had 25 or so songs for every album, then I let A&R people and producers argue about which ones we'd do. I've still got demos of a lot of those songs. I don't know who would be interested in them, but I could let them slide out for people who want to hear them. Both of them.

Well Jules and Pal, if you're ever in the mood to "slide out" some of those unreleased gems, please slide'em this way. My forum is your forum.

"Shear Shazar" is available directly from Jules & Pal.  Please, do yourselves a favor and pick it up HERE.   

And tell them, Burning Wood sent ya!


Jeff Matthews said...

Thanks Sal - great post and interview. I'm a longtime JPB fan since 1978 when we played Got No Breeding to death on WHRB. Looking forward to hearing the new collaboration - BW rules!

Bill Barol said...

This is great news! I'm a fan going back to Jules & The Polar Bears. Thanks for the tip, Sal.

sue sanders said...

As always, both wonderfully informative and well-written. Can't wait to expand my musical horizons.

Biffles said...

Looking forward to hearing this...I'm a longtime fan, and your recs (so far) have been on the money...

A walk in the woods said...

Cool! I'll check it out!

rick said...

great to read the interview, sal...i find myself endlessly perplexed about how to find good new music nowadays, and so i rely on your persistence in that department, thanks!

Anonymous said...

A new Jules!!! Wow. Much like you, I've spent fruitless hours searching for any Jules Shear news. Jewel in the Cobweb? More like No Jules On The Web,
Now I know to just keep checking Burning Wood.
That's one problem solved.
I've always loved the Pal and Jules duets on his records.
A whole record now!! What a great surprise.
Jackpot indeed.
I'm buying it from Itunes as I write this.

Anonymous said...

I just got the CD in the mail today and I'm loving it.
Already a frontrunner for top 10 of the year.
But now I'm dreaming about Demo-itis 2....
This MUST happen.
Can I donate to Kickstarter for it?
Pledge Music????

Good job once again.


Les said...

Yea! I haven't bought any new music in months. I've pinned it to buy when I have some extra cash. Thanks for the heads up!

Anonymous said...

A new Jules Shear is always a cause for celebration