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Volume 34
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Legendary Folk musician Cris Williamson found her home here in Seattle
Legendary Folk musician Cris Williamson found her home here in Seattle
Williamson and friends to perform at Meany Hall on Sept. 9

by Leslie Robinson - SGN A&E Writer

Cris Williamson is home. And now she wants to help other women come home, too.

Williamson-singer/songwriter, Lesbian icon, and since 2000 a Seattle resident-will perform at Meany Hall on Sept. 9, part of a North American tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of her landmark album, "The Changer and the Changed."

In 1975, Olivia Records, a new and all-female record company, pressed just 500 copies of the album. "My expectations were zero," Williamson remembers. But those 500 flew off the shelves, and "The Changer" went on to become one of the biggest-selling independent releases of all time, and the kick-start for the genre of "women's music."

Williamson laughs that if she had a dollar for every copy sold, she'd be filthy rich. "But I have that music. And I'm able to give it again in a resurgence."

Some say the record is a classic because it came out at a time when women hungered for a voice. Williamson agrees, but also thinks there's a spiritual component. She aimed for people's hearts with that album. "It was personal, and also universal. You can't get much better than that."

The record became a litmus test for Lesbians. If an apartment had "The Changer and the Changed" and Rita Mae Brown's novel "Rubyfruit Jungle," well, you knew where you were. "So Rita Mae and I were sort of the junior Lesbian kit," she says.

"I know people who discover it now and go through a revelation. It's a portal," she says.

Hearing the music again makes people return to when they first heard it, says Williamson. It acts as a homing device. With the anniversary concerts, "I have now hit the on switch again," she says.

"When people return to the home 'Changer' is, because they too have changed, they too will bring new things to the table."

Williamson is the first to say that she has changed since her break-up with Tret Fure. As women's music fans know, the two were together personally and professionally for 20 years. The split made Williamson a pure wreck, though some of her best music came out of it.

So did something else. She asked her friend of 30 years, Judy Werle, for help with parts of her business. "And we just started hanging, 'cause we made each other laugh. She was in a similar situation. We just helped each other out. Started laughing, which is like a miracle drug."

They became partnered, and live together now in North Seattle. Werle runs Williamson's Wolf Moon Records label. "She's really helping me reboot my life and my career, which is not easy when you're almost 60."

After the split with Fure, her heart didn't just break, it "broke open. That's what happened to me. I became more conscious," she says. "I am here now. I've never been so here now in my life," she smiles.

As she's more at home in her own skin these days, so she also likes calling the Northwest home. In addition to their Seattle place, she and Werle spend time at their second home in Eugene, Ore.

"I love this city," Williamson says of Seattle. "Port cities are interesting cities. They just can't help it. Their faces are open."

Her Wolf Moon Records just joined the GSBA. "I'm really proud of that," she says, noting such Gay organizations are pretty new. The world has changed. "Did you ever hear the word 'Lesbian' so much in your life?"

As she drinks a double latte-she was a coffee fan before moving to Seattle-she describes the anniversary tour. She decided they wouldn't be solo shows, and that she wanted to involve some players who hadn't been part of the original album, in order to add a freshness.

Each of the players has been influenced by "The Changer." "They all bring to the table amazing, powerful skills, so every show is just an event," she says. "It's a very satisfying show, for the players and audience alike."

Her compatriots on stage for the Seattle concert will be Teresa Trull and Barbara Higbie, two well-known women's music performers, and Vicki Randle, the only female member of the Tonight Show Band. Williamson says that cellist Jami Sieber has been known to play her instrument in the Southeast Asian jungle, causing elephants to appear and start to sway.

Also in the mix will be Seattle resident Jackie Robbins and banjo whiz Woody Simmons. Robbins and Simmons, as well as Vicki Randle, all played on "The Changer" 30 years ago. In the first set of the show, each performer will do a piece of her own, backed by the others.

The second set will be all "The Changer and the Changed," the entire album. Williamson knows these songs mean a lot to fans, and she doesn't mess with them much. "We just stretch out here and there, in ways that just make use of the players."

She says Barbara Higbie has commented the songs are "like diamonds, created under a great deal of pressure. So we polish up the diamonds."

"Waterfall" still sparkles. Its lyrics about the waters of life "filling up and spilling over" speak, Williamson says, of "an endless process. There's comfort in that . . . May we forever be the changer and the changed."

As to the anthem-like "Song of the Soul," Williamson knows from experience she'll have to ask the audience to let her sing the first part alone, or else a sea of voices will drown her out. The song encourages swaying and exuberant singing, which is partly why it's now sung in churches and by Brownies and Girl Scouts.

And why Lesbians long ago claimed it as their own. "It had become the song of their soul, and it was really joyful, and happy at the heart of it," says Williamson. "Out and proud, y'know? I gave them the perfect vehicle."

Those who received that level of sustenance, of comfort, from Cris Williamson's music 30 years ago-or 30 minutes ago-can now experience it again live. She's more than happy to provide it. "I want," she says, "to offer that sense of home to people."



Cris Williamson and friends appear at Meany Hall Sat. Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. $35-$75. Tix available at Silver Platter Records in Crossroads Mall and Southcenter, online at www.brownpapertickets.com, or by phone at (800) 838-3006. For more info, liamson.com" www.criswilliamson.com, or (206) 706-7960.

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