The Green Worldby Dar Williams
On her eagerly awaited fourth album, Dar Williams draws on folk tradition to tell good stories, her background as a playwright to set scenes, and her studies of religion to transcend ordinary song subjects. The New England singer-songwriter matches her literate lyrical approach with uncharacteristically complex melodies that provide more thought-provoking frames for her personally charged explorations. The opening track "Playing to the Firmament" introduces some rocking horns to the mix, while "What Do You Love More Than Love?" frames its philosophical title quest with bouncy rhythms and flickering lyrical imagery. The singer takes new chances with her voice this time out, too, lending understated emotional colorings to the delicate "After All" and the poppy "Spring Street." While Williams is best known for her narrative lyrics, here she expands her conceptual grasp with impressive results, looking at sibling relationships in "We Learned the Sea" and searching for honesty in love in "Another Mystery," while offering a wickedly humorous twist in "I Won't Be Your Yoko Ono" and a dash of political commentary in "I Had No Right."
- Release Date:
- Razor & Tie
Performance CreditsDar Williams Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Steve Holley Drums
Rob Hyman Organ
Graham Maby Bass
David Mansfield Violin
Doug Plavin Percussion
Steuart Smith Guitar,Accordion,Electric Sitar,Wurlitzer
Billy Masters Guitar,Electric Guitar
Jane Scarpantoni Cello
Technical CreditsDar Williams Composer
John Agnello Engineer
Stewart Lerman Producer,Engineer
David Mansfield String Arrangements
William Wittman Engineer
Jennifer Barbato Art Direction
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In her fourth studio album, Dar Williams expands her scope and in several songs, turns to spirtual questions and themes. The relentlessly questioning ''What do you love more than love'' inquires about personal and national desire. In ''I had no right'', she writes about Daniel Berrigan, the anti-war activist and priest. The song, written in first person and set in the Vietnam era, describes the thoughts of Berrigan as he faces trial for burning draft cards. In another song set a generation ago (''I wouldn't be your Yoko Ono''), Dar shatters the conventional wisdom that Yoko Ono was just this woman who broke up the Beatles. Instead, Yoko is the brilliant conceptual artist who expanded John's art. What gives this album the edge over Dar's other great works is her remarkable song ''After All''. In this gentle ballad, Dar displays her honesty and courage in writing about life with all the joys and struggles it brings. The message of the song is revealed in its first lines: ''Go ahead, push your luck, find out how much love the world can hold''. The rest of the song is why we should take these words seriously. Dar's narrator explains why life is worth living to the fullest by chronicling her experiences with and recovery from the ''winter machine'' of depression. In her recovery, she digs through the stories of her parents and finds liberation from seeing how they thrived despite their pain. She expresses this realization with the triumphant lines: ''But now I'm sleeping fine Sometimes the truth is like a second chance I am a daughter of a great romance And they are the children of the war'' On this song, Dar's acoustic guitar is backed by an organ and soft drums. The most important instrument, however, is Dar's soothing and expressive voice.
I bought her last album, but this is really special. I ended up buying 6 for friends and realtives, all different tasets and most thought it was the best female album in years. I love linear songs that only repeat the chorus and have a poetry to them. Maybe, just maybe, she'll get even Better. Mystery is the best cut Bill
Who is this Ronnie Lankford guy? He obviously hasn't really listened to this album more than three times. Part of its beauty is that it encapsulates Dar's staple introspection and cultural commentary with a smooth coating of studio-pop sound. That doesn't mean it's not serious. The sound maybe easy to swallow, but the lyrics actually contain some of the strongest messages and deepest revelations of any Dar album yet. ('Playing to the Firmament' is -not- a song of childish delight: ''On a bad day who would you kill?''). The slickness caught me a bit by surprise - at first I thought that a production sound meant manufactured lyrics. I should have had more faith. After weeks of listening I've found that all it means is that they get under your skin faster, and dig in deeper, than maybe anything off Dar's previous albums. I find myself playing songs off this album for my friends over and over. ''I had no right'' - the song about Daniel Berrigan, and ''God Descended'' are among my favorites, but really everything on the album is incredible. My favorite line, however, has to be from ''Yoko Ono'' (Again, ignore Mr. Lankford's comments): ''Well they can rag about me.../Throw me to the velvet dogs of pop-star history'' It's got to be be the best description I've heard this year!
Not only is the music on the CD beautiful, the lyrics are perceptive, smart, and touching. I've been a Dar Williams fan for many years, and this album reflects a previously unreached depth. I don't think I've listened to any other CDs in several weeks!