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Singer-songwriters in today's music scene face a troubling paradox: If they want a recording contract, they are often forced to compromise their music to fit the commercial demands of record companies, which are, after all, in the business of making money.

Those songwriters more interested in preserving the integrity of their music often endure a self-imposed exile.A growing number of the best songwriters are resorting to a far-from-new but increasingly popular strategy: independent record labels, which rarely make money but produce a quality of music rarely matched by major record companies.

Among the first to blaze that trail - and prove it could be done - was contemporary folk legend Cris Williamson, whose suggestion in 1973 led to the creation of Olivia Records, the first national women's record company.

Fourteen albums later, Williamson is still astonishing audiences across the United States with her intensely beautiful and unwaveringly passionate songwriting. And keeping in the spirit of independent releases, Williamson's music is above all uncompromisingly honest.

Williamson and performing partner Tret Fure will bring their blend of contemporary folk, pop and rock 'n' roll to Kingsbury Hall Saturday, June 18, for an 8 p.m. concert - the last Kingsbury Hall concert before renovation.

Williamson and Fure will be performing cuts from their recent "Postcards from Paradise," their first duo recording (they have performed together for the past 12 years, but never recorded an album together).

Laced with a wry humor that has become a trademark of their live performances, "Postcards" is being hailed as a collaboration that "will restore your heart and give you hope for the future."

"Postcards" encompasses an expansive picture of life, creating world images with intensely personal parallels. In "Little World Spinning Blue," they sing: "Stone by stone, tear down the wall, all for one and one for all, throw down the armor, throw away the key."

It is clearly a song about Cold Wars and world peace, but it is also a subtle reminder of the oneness of humanity and a plea to discard personal prejudice and hate. "Open up your heart and let us in, together we will start, forever we'll begin."

"The Stones from Helen's Field" is a powerful statement of self-determination and empowerment told through the experiences of a single mother who "raised her seven children and she raised her crops alone. Now she's raising others' young ones, and she rocks them like her own."

"Something Blue" addresses the tragedies of teenage suicide and homophobia, while "Garden Ring" was inspired by a 1992 trip to Russia that clearly stirred their social consciousness, inspiring images of suffering, yearning and hope.

"Dreamboat" is a not-so-typical love song that incorporates nautical imagery of hope hidden in the hold and love as a stowaway. "My storming life was hungry, eating wind out of my sails," Williamson sings, later adding, "I was searching heart's horizon for a sail so seldom seen."

But the best - and certainly most intriguing - cut is the title track, which is based on a dream: What if Columbus had jumped ship in the Bahamas and chosen the Arawak people as his own and burned all his ships and maps to the New World? And he sends a postcard back to King Ferninand saying he is "never, ever coming home."

"I'm lying in the sand, and it never felt so well, there is no gold here, no silver to mine, it's never cold here, and the weather suits me fine." And Paradise is saved.

Williamson has long been noted as an environmentalist and humanitarian, and she frequently lends her name and talents to causes she believes in. Two of the songs on "Postcards" - "Living On" and "In the Best Interest of the Children" - are tributes to a pediatric AIDS organization in Danvers, Mass.

Through all of their music, there is a sense of optimism, hope and determination. It is not about wishing things would change, but about effecting change. And in that respect, "Postcards from Paradise" epitomizes the best in independent recordings.

Tickets are available through Smith'sTix and Kingsbury Hall.