Dar Williams "Emerald"

Dar Williams hasn’t released an album since 2011’s In the Time of Gods. In the meantime she’s conducted workshops on writing, given lectures on the music industry, taught a course at Wesleyan entitled “Music Movements in a Capitalist Democracy,” and raised a family. It’s amazing how living life restores create ideas. Emerald is filled with incisive insights into human nature, bordered with humor and empathy.

Williams traveled between Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and New Jersey in order to record the album. Along the way she enlisted the help of Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman, formerly of The Hooters, Suzzy and Lucy Roche, Richard Thompson, Jim Lauderdale, and Jill Sobule. Her songs travel beyond even these locations, encompassing a world of ideas. She opens with “Something To Get Through” a song that travels inward, exploring the cavernous depths of emotional challenges, but she doesn’t tarry in the sadness. She heads straight for the witty “FM Radio,” a track Williams co-wrote with Jill Sobule. The pair capture the sweet, silly essence of 1970s pop culture. For the third track she shifts gears again for “Empty Plane” a hallucinatory take on travel and dreaming.

Williams is a craftswoman of extraordinary talent who can shift not only through a myriad of emotions but also genres. Folk glides into pop into moody ballad, into a sauntering country duet, and through it all she makes it sound effortless. “Slippery Slope” – that country number, is a sweet self-deprecating love tune featuring Jim Lauderdale. “Weight of the World,” a Kat Goldman song, features vocals from  Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche. Williams also covers “Johnny Appleseed” a song associated with Joe Strummer. Williams has assembled a great backing band that includes help from Richard Thompson and Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman, formerly of The Hooters.

Dar Williams ends Emerald with the captivating “New York is a Harbor” a tribute to both New York and the immigrant experience. It is one of her finest songs, a testament to the skill of this remarkable songwriter. 

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)