I first listened to Dar Williams (always full name. First and Last.) when my Dad and I bought my stepmom The Honesty Room after she heard "When I Was a Boy" on a local Boston radio station (It may have been a public radio station. I couldn't hear it very well. There was a LOT of static). We obsessed over that album that summer and that was where I learned about how nice it is to give music as a gift. (I told this story to her when my wife and I saw her perform in February of last year. She seemed touched and she understood what I meant about giving music. She referenced the story when
she signed my CD.)
Then she released her next album, Mortal City, and, while it was perhaps a little less folky than the first album, it was still full of songs that ranged in emotion from laugh-out-loud hilarity to chilling doses of mortality and reality.
I sort of lost touch with Dar Williams over the next couple of albums, but then when I found out she would be coming through on tour, I bought tickets and got her most recent album, In the Time of Gods, for Christmas. I listened to it on repeat until I knew it almost as well as I knew her earlier work. But something was a little off. The songs were very enjoyable but the effortlessness with which she had played the earlier songs was missing.
When I saw her in concert, the ease and effortlessness was there, and I was happy to see it. She's an amazing storyteller (and has great stage banter. You should definitely see her live, if you have the chance)
I also heard that same welcome ease on this new album, Emerald. She is playing these songs like she's been playing them for years. The range of emotions is there too. There are touching stories like those in "New York is a Harbor" and "Mad River". And there are moments of pure joy like on "FM Radio" which has more references to musicians of the 60's and 70's than you can shake a stick at. (My favorite line of that song is "It's like a public pool/You decide where to jump in/To feel the sexiness, the passion and the fusion and the fission/Remember: Bruce Springsteen divorced a model and married a musician"
I'm excited to get to know this album. You should be, too. If you love Dar Williams, or if you are hearing about her for the first time, you should pick up Emerald. It's out today in the UK and tomorrow in the US.
Dar Williams has a new album and it's quite good.
Here are some songs from the album for you to peruse before you buy!