Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dar Williams' Many Great Companions

Dar Williams is an American folk singer-songwriter who's been active since the early 1990s. She's released around eight or so albums, and has worked with the likes of Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Indigo Girls. And until very recently I had never heard any of her work.

This week saw the release of Many Great Companions, a collection of Williams' greatest hits from the span of her career. It also features a disc of new acoustic recordings of some of her songs with special guest collaborators. I got a hold of the collection and sat down to give Williams a shot, and I must say I'm extremely glad I did.

Williams is quite the lyricist, covering topics like religion, sexual politics, adolescence, and love with remarkable maturity. She's at times poignant and introspective, as in the fantastic "Spring Street" or the introspective "After All." Other songs, however, demonstrate her serpent's tongue and brilliant sense of humour, as with the hilarious "The Pointless Yet Poignant Crisis of a Co-ed" (tragically absent from the greatest hits album).  In her more subdued moments she reminds me of other great female sing-songwriters like Sarah Harmer and Ani Difranco , but when Williams unleashes her biting satirical edge she enters a class all of her own. It’s been a long time since I’ve encountered a folk singer who's so adept at translating social politics into catchy tunes, and I will definitely have “The Christians and the Pagans” stuck in my head for days to come.

Many Great Companions gives a broad cross-section of Dar Williams' career, and seemed like a fantastic entry point for uninitiated listeners like me. For fans who already own the “best of” material here, the disc of new acoustic takes makes this release a worthy addition to any collection. Evidence of that fact can be found below via two mp3s of the new acoustic tracks.

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