You either know who Dar Williams
is or you don't, but chances are that if you know her music, you've got a bit of a story behind that.
Her folk songs are rarely if ever heard on the radio, but via word-of-mouth, she tends to find fans across the U.S. and the world. For my own story, word-of-mouth somehow found the drama kids at Bartlesville High School in Oklahoma in the late nineties. Songs like "The Pointless Yet Poingant Crisis of a Co-Ed"
celebrated us while giving us some perspective, but it was quieter moments, like riding home through forested roads in the dead of morning, listening to "Are You Out There"
while getting my girlfriend home way too late, or sitting at home listening to "As Cool As I Am"
over and over and starting to understand feminine perspectives, which made me fall in love with her voice and worldview.
Which led me to writing my college admissions essay about her "classic," "The Christians and the Pagans,"
which got me into NYU and then that girlfriend, by then an ex, even, sent me off to the east coast with a kiss and a mix-tape which concluded with her singing, a capella, my favorite line from "Iowa (Travelling III),
" "And so for you, I came this far, across the tracks, ten miles above the limit and with no seat belt, and I'd do it again."
In college, I spread the gospel of her the best I could, which led one of my friends to giving me tickets to a show of hers at Irving Plaza for my birthday. That show turned out to be a recording for her live album, so I like to imagine that I can hear my own cheering in the background of thwat intimate-ish space, but I know that I hade to be there to understand that she is as much a storyteller as songwriter, and that one needs to hear "The Babysitter's Here"
and "When I Was a Boy"
in person to get the full effect.
Her brand of folk isn't a revolution. It is about therapy, or stumbling through self-reflection, or the beauty in the mundane, rendered with humor and sympathy. But it is brilliant. And it should be heard.
Some other choice tracks:
What Do You Hear in These Sounds?
Playing to the Firmament
(endearing teenage cover version)
Southern California Wants to Be Western New York