My Better Self
(Razor & Tie)
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2005, Volume 12, #9
Written by John Metzger
Singer/songwriter Dar Williams, who long has been a favorite on New England’s thriving folk scene, consistently has risen above the pack to be something more than just another coffeehouse-flavored, indie act. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until she released The Beauty of the Rain in 2003 that she truly found her voice. My Better Self, her latest endeavor, continues her upward trajectory. Not only does Williams succeed in expanding her sonic palette, but she also achieves a level of thematic cohesiveness that heretofore had not been present within her work.
Much as its title suggests, the concept for My Better Self revolves around the idea that love can provide the spark necessary to spur self-improvement, and by deftly mixing social statements (Teen for God) with those of a political (Empire) and personal (So Close to My Heart) nature, Williams keenly makes her point. Augmenting her usual studio band with members from her touring ensemble and incorporating an array of special guests that include Ani DiFranco, Soulive, Marshall Crenshaw, and Patty Larkin, Williams shades her lyrics with a myriad of different textures and subtle nuances. On Two Sides of the River, for example, she wades into the murky waters of organ-driven blues, while the beautiful, ethereal fragility of Blue Light of the Flame is supernaturally supported by its delicately designed ornamentation. Elsewhere, she pushes Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere from a bluegrass-tinged march into a buoyant blast of perky pop, laces Beautiful Enemy with a fervent fury, and couches Teen for God within a jaunty, country-pop arrangement. Indeed, throughout My Better Self, Williams sounds completely confident in her abilities. Consequently, she is more engaging than ever.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box