Dar Williams' lyrics contain bouquets of optimism, delivered on melodies alternating between beguiling lightness and understated gravity. Williams strongly believes that all of us possess our own power and ability to achieve, and she rejects the exceptionalism that encourages us to "admire that yonder star," while making us feel small and insignificant; unworthy of shining on our own but hoping to catch enough distant light to inspire some tiny accomplishment. Williams has always been very interested in how to control our future and this album has to do with the fact that at some point, you just can't.
Like everyone else, Williams spent 2020 in that state of non-control. She and longtime producer Stewart Lerman tracked most of the album, her 12th studio recording, in November of 2019. In late February of 2020, she cut the title tune in Woodstock with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and Larry Campbell, who produced the track and played guitars, pedal steel and twangy baritone guitar. When told they had to postpone a mid-March mixing date, Campbell said he wasn't feeling well anyway. Turns out he'd contracted a serious case of COVID-19. That was a clear sign that at some point, you have to meet life where it meets you...the common thread throughout these songs, the willingness to meet life as it arrives.
Dar Williams was always in the right place at the right time for the success she's had over a 25+-year career. She rose out of the vibrant mid-'90s Boston scene, inspired by the eclectic influences of alt-rockers, Berklee jazz musicians, slam poets, and folk artists, like Patty Griffith, Melissa Ferrick, Throwing Muses, Vance Gilbert, and Jonathan Brooke. After a year of touring non-stop with her first album, The Honesty Room, in 1994, she was invited by Joan Baez to tour in Europe and The United States.
"Good and bad things happen, and it's not necessarily a reward or indictment. I've just got to meet it," Williams observes. "Like, I'm bringing my whole life to this moment; it will surprise me, challenge me, show me where I was wrong, even make a fool out of me, but my job is to show up and not take adversity personally. Real happiness doesn't have to feel like Snoopy dancing with Woodstock; it can just be knowing you have the resilience to meet whatever comes to you. I will call that a good life."
Much of Ms. Williams's appeal stems from her precocious lyrical insights....and a high, lulling voice reminiscent of Joni Mitchell.
Her style of pop-inspired confessional folk soon caught the eye of Joan Baez, who subsequently recorded some of Williams' songs. Since then...[Williams] shared the stage with the likes of Patty Griffin, Ani DiFranco, Mary Chapin Carter and Joan Baez, and she's been able to fine-tune her knack for conveying emotion on-stage.
Talking with Dar Williams always feels less like an interview than it does checking in with an old friend and getting an update about where she's at in her life.
[Williams is] a classic wordsmith brandishing a guitar.
In a sense, Dar Williams is coming full circle with her 12th studio album. Closing track 'You're Aging Well' was originally recorded for her breakthrough LP (1993's The Honesty Room) and was a favorite of early supporter Joan Baez. Heard here, Williams settles into the fact that she's reached a certain age and finds even deeper truths within. It's a breathtaking way to end this record, especially as Williams sounds as vibrant as ever on the other nine tracks. She looks at the past with fondness ('Berkeley') and sees the lessons in the mistakes she made while also taking stock of the present both outside her front door and in the world at large (the climate crisis plea 'Today and Every Day'). There's strength in her words, leaving little markers of hope and wisdom to guide listeners on their own path through life.
- Vinyl LP
- Made in Canada
- Time, Be My Friend
- You Give It All Away
- Let The Wind Blow
- Magical Thinking
- Little Town
- Today And Every Day
- I Never Knew
- Sullivan Lane
- You're Aging Well