Singer-songwriter reflects on careerWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dar Williams didn’t want to release a typical greatest hits disc last year.
So she contacted some friends — Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Larkin, Gary Louris of The Jayhawks, and Sean and Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek — to rerecord some songs with her.
Then Williams heard from her manager.
“He said you feel like these certain songs sound outdated, but these are the songs in the form that people heard them when they were doing their first cross-country trip or sitting alone in their dorm room or playing them for their kids in the car. The arrangements are part of the experience as much as the songs themselves,” said the singer-songwriter known for philosophical, political and comical lyrics.
“So we did both. We rerecorded some and we put out the greatest hits of the others, and there was some overlap, which was fun.”
“Many Great Companions” is a two-disc set with 32 songs spanning her solo career, which began with “The Honesty Room” in 1995.
“That first album could be titled ‘Songs I’ve Written Over the Last Seven Years Now That My Boyfriend Dumped Me I Can Sit on My Futon and Write Them,’ ” she said and then laughed during a call from her Cold Spring, N.Y., home.
The guitarist called the 1996 follow-up, “Mortal City,” a travel record, noting how songs “Iowa,” “Southern California Wants to Be Western New York” and “The Ocean” were written from observations while touring.
“I saw how this country really paints itself in bold strokes according to geography,” Williams said.
“The next album was a lot about authority,” she said of “End of the Summer,” which includes the hit “Are You Out There” “The hint of time, the end of the summer, is where we sort of set out from, kind of having no authority to having to deal with authority, and that time in my life — there are a lot of songs that harken back to being a teenager again.”
“The Green World” in 2000 continued that theme.
“There were all sorts of different religions on [‘The Green World’], so that was about authority with a big A, not just dealing with ‘the man,’ ” she said and laughed.
“And then ‘Promised Land’ had a lot to do with people having to make big choices in a tight space,” Williams said, adding how parents who work and travel are especially pressured. “So it’s kind of like now you’ve found your inner authority, what are you going to do?
“When you’re in your 40s, you have a lot of power. You can really mess things up or you can really get things done.”
Along the way, Williams has amused with “The Christians and the Pagans,” “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono,” “Teenagers, Kick Our Butts,” “What Do You Hear in These Sounds” and “Teen for God.”
“There’s a lot of truth in humor. A lot of times, humor is just a person taking himself seriously,” she said.
“Truly finding people in their place and time, like an uncle just barely keeping it together as his pagan relative is visiting, those are really funny people, but they’re also really endearing and they’re also very much a part of our experience. In a lot of ways, that nervous Christian uncle is where the country is right now.”
Williams will play two shows at 8 p.m. Nov. 18 and 19 at the Ark in Ann Arbor. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.