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Monday Muse: Dar Williams

February 4, 2013

The mid Nineties were a weird time for me.  As a pretty naive nerd boy I made my first tentative steps into the wider world.   I made my best friends ever, moved out of my parents house, then back in, then back out again. I fell in love for the first time, actually got engaged at one point, and then crashed hard when that relationship hit the rocks.  I’m incredibly lucky that she and I have remained friends to this day.  I spent  the latter half of that decade pretty lonely though,  until the strange day in 2000 when I was lucky enough to sit down next to this Girl at Kaldi’s  and had my life changed forever.

In between loves I struggled, desperate at times, sometimes resigned.  Music got me through a lot of it.  One artist in particular flitted into my view as I shelved her cd’s at my job at the now defunct Arc Distributing ( a “one stop warehouse” for local music distribution, I used to describe us as the colon of the music industry). That artist was Dar Williams, and for a few years she became my imaginary girlfriend.  I sincerely hope that doesn’t come off as too creepy, but there it is.  When I was at my loneliest I could pop her cassette into my aging walkman and escape for a time, a time  in  which this intelligent and clever songwriter delivered a picture of the world that wasn’t dark. Melancholy at times and never saccharine, always delivered with hope and humor.

Dar Williams is much more than another  product of the New England folk scene. A graduate of Wesleyan University with a sharp sense of humor and a  firm grasp of Humanist principles and an appreciation for conceptual art,  Dar’s music can be a quirky Christmas carol of “The Christians and the Pagans” , or  the forceful defense of the avant garde in “I won’t be your Yoko Ono” (click on both links, the story is as good as the song), or a simple story of love lost and found like “February”.

On her 2005 album  My Better Self, she started a conversation on the concept of “paying it forward” in the song “Echoes”, as well as a brutal indictment of the Bush administration and American empire with “Empire” and “Beautiful Enemy”.  I’m still digesting “In the Time of the Gods“, but the closing track “Storm King” certainly ranks with any of her best.

I had trouble picking just one video, but I really like this one.

Youtube comment (yes a sane Youtube comment) from  TheMeemeister summed up this song, and my opinion of Dar Williams really well.

For a tomboy like myself – a tree climber, fisherman, horse rider, explorer – dirty dusty and totally content to be my boy self this song so poignant touches me with longing for that freedom – those places I once was free enough to live. I think I cried the first time I heard this with recognition that I was not the only one. Let’s hear it for all the girls’ inner boys and all the boys’ inner girls.


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