by Seth Rogovoy
(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Acclaimed singer-songwriter Dar Williams performs at Club Helsinki Hudson on Thursday, September 13, 2012, at 8 p.m. Williams is known for her incisive story-songs; her strongly drawn characters; her portrayals of contemporary women’s lives and struggles; and her deft twists of phrase. Her recordings and occasional choice of cover songs (the Kinks; Neil Young; Pink Floyd; David Bowie) also betray that bubbling below the surface of the ostensibly new-folk singer-songwriter lurks the heart and soul of a chick-rocker.
With the possible exception of Suzanne Vega, I can’t think of another folk singer-songwriter who has written more tunes that are as catchy and memorable as Dar Williams has. Williams’s catalog includes at least a dozen songs that could have – indeed, should have, been pop hits – including “Alleluia,” “As Cool As I Am,” “Are You Out There,” “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono,” “Buzzer,” “Go to the Woods,” and “End of the Summer.”
It’s no wonder that Joan Baez was an early champion of Dar’s, and recorded several of her songs. She undoubtedly saw in her compositions some of the incredible melodic sophistication and lyrical abundance that she recognized in the works of Bob Dylan thirty years earlier.
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Perhaps the power in Dar Williams’ storytelling stems from her background in theater, honing her skills as a playwright and bard at Wesleyan University. From college she moved to Boston where she continued her theatrical pursuits in the coffee-house circuits, but eventually went further west to Northampton, Mass., where she found a supportive artistic community.
She recorded The Honesty Room independently in Northampton, which was quickly picked up and circulated Nationally. Soon Williams was working with renowned folk artists such as Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Sarah McLachlan, and Ani DiFranco, who recognized a mutual tradition of honest storytelling in the rising musician.
Her 1996 album Mortal City was met with even more praise, and after her 1997 release of End of the Summer she played a sold-out performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, sparking a tradition of houses packed with eager and entranced listeners. Cry, Cry, Cry, on which Williams collaborated with Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky, featured covers of timeless and popular folk tunes, and was a great success both artistically and publicly.
Soon Williams became one of the Top 50 Grossing touring acts in the U.S., and she’s sold well over a quarter-million records. She has released eighteen studio albums and EPs.
Her latest album, In The Time of the Gods, explores the transmittance of human truths through ancient mythology, and the manifestation of these poetic traditions into our own epic times. The Wall Street Journal commented on the release: “Dar Williams rocks out on her latest, in tuneful songs that offer incisive portraits of emotional entanglements and our perilous world. She helps speak to our better nature without preaching. It’s a great record.”
Her immense market success stems from her incredible ability to captivate an audience. Her presence is relaxing, familiar, and without pretense. Her lyrics are unadorned and grounded in the experiences she knows connects us all. Both her albums and live performances seem reminiscent of the most ancient of oral traditions. She speaks of the barren truths of our human spirit with beauty, honesty, and wit, her subtle and sweet guitar and lullaby, Celtic-infused voice underscoring the poetry. She has a power to transport us all to a precise emotional space and memory. Whether it lies within our experience, our soul, or imagination, it seems familiar, heartbreakingly and comfortingly shared.
For reservations in The Restaurant or in the club call 518.828.4800