..Eugene Melino..

Kristina Con Vita - Going It Alone Together

Suicide bombers, global warming, reality TV - we live in ugly times. Yet in a leap of faith, hope and charity, these two young women have banded together to create a beautiful sound to salve our poor, lacerated souls.

Partnered with other people when they met, they had been trying to ignore each other's existence when they suddenly became free birds during the summer of 2004. "Gail, our booking agent, had been talking to us about each other since we both can remember," says Kristina Marie. "We had always heard from her how great the other one was - almost to the point of annoyance. Like, who is this Vita girl? And, who is this Kristina chick? How great could she possibly be?"

Opposites Attract
At first glance, the match seems unlikely. Vita Izabella, the younger of the two, is a classically trained operatic soprano whose pop voice would fit right into the Greenwich Village folk scene circa 1963. And she looks it too, with her long honey-colored hair and clear, truthful eyes. Though older than Vita, Kristina's look and style recall more recent musical trends. Her husky alto voice was born for full power electric rock 'n' roll, the kind of thing that got Dylan in so much trouble.

Feeling an immediate rapport despite their musical, stylistic and age differences, these indie ladies joined forces - them against the world - as an acoustic duo, of all things. In an age of raucous nouveau punk and overly blinged rap stars, it hardly seemed the strategy to capture the pop music market. "We believed we found in each other our musical soul mates," says Vita. Adds Kristina, "It can be difficult for two strong female performers to share the stage, especially when they're used to being the only girl on stage. But our differences have made it easy. We actually felt inspired by these differences."

Sidebars: Kristina Marie and Vita Izabella.

Taking Ownership
Their first performance as Kristina con Vita took place over a year and a half ago. While each is an accomplished songwriter in her own right, the market compels them to perform primarily covers. But their sound belongs only to them. On a cold night in January 2006, they are playing to a packed house at The Back Fence, the great old folk music venue in New York City's Greenwich Village.

Alone together as always, they give new life to old and new pop classics. When Vita sings "Babylon," the David Gray hit from his White Ladder album, she brings her own unique, plaintive quality to the song. The audience knows she lived these lyrics. They know she once begged someone to let go his heart and let go his head. She covers that song as if she wrote it, and no one wants it to sound like the record.

Then they shift gears and Kristina takes lead on "What I Like about You," the 1979 hit by the Detroit pop-rock band, The Romantics. With her partner singing tight harmonies around her, she shakes, rattles and rolls the audience, then wails out a bluesy harmonica riff like the rocker she is.

Being an acoustic duo takes advantage of their contrasts vocally and stylistically to create a sound found nowhere else. And they love play with those contrasts. Sometimes, for brief moments, they switch parts, Vita's voice swooping under Kristina's, or Kristina's suddenly leaping into Vita's range. They also work very hard to tighten and hone their harmonies. Very hard. Their version of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" offers the same kind of intricate, hand-crafted harmonies that made vocal folk groups like Peter, Paul and Mary great. And in a pop scene dominated by Divas who can only harmonize with themselves through the miracle of technology, it's nice to hear young singers who can still do it the old fashioned way. Most of all, you can see that they not only enjoy singing together, but they have become both mentor and pupil to each other.

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