Dar Williams comes armed with a social consciousness and great songs

2013-09-20T00:00:00Z Dar Williams comes armed with a social consciousness and great songsTom Lounges Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Boston-based singer/songwriter Dar Williams’ snappy folk-pop sound has powered nine studio albums, several EPs and a few live concert releases during her nearly 20-year professional career as a music-maker, earning her a legion of loyal fans, including many in Northwest Indiana.

Williams’ latest collection of songs, “In the Time of Gods” (Razor & Tie Records), was inspired by Greek mythology, a recent interest sparked by her young son and his interest in Greek gods and myths. Williams said her children and all children are important to her.

Children of war and child soldiers are the topic of her new album’s powerful opening song, “I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything,” which has been getting a lot of media attention lately for the cold implications of lyrical lines about “hungry kids sharpening sticks” and “schools of zealotry training orphans to make more orphans.”

“A friend told me that the Taliban is mostly comprised of the orphans from the war between Afghanistan and Russia. I wrote this song about the importance of parenting and the importance of having a childhood and of parents reading to their kids and teaching values and humanity to them. We can’t allow disposable generations because they will come back in 20 years and be part of our next war. We have to end the cycle.”

That Williams comes off as a modern day incarnation of those guitar-strumming folks troubadours of the Sixties is no surprise. She has found a powerful mentor in Joan Baez, one of the great voices for change during the era of Civil Rights marches and anti-war demonstrations. “I’ve learned a LOT from Joan,” said Williams, adding with a laugh, “Including things about fashion and ‘stepping up’ my look when performing.”

Early in her career, Williams was asked by late folk singer Mimi Farnia (Baez’ younger sister) to perform at a high profile concert benefiting the “Bread And Roses” organization, at the long shuttered Alacatraz maximum security prison in San Francisco alongside Baez and The Indigo Girls.

That event was the jump point for Williams to follow the lead of those pioneering Sixties folkies; she has since rolled up her sleeves to champion causes that range from recycling, to women’s rights, to human rights. That mindset and those efforts, coupled with her topical and top shelf songs, have helped win Williams an audience of young adults who strongly share her concern for the state of the world and its people.

That Williams has also written a pair of fictional books published by Scholastic targeted at “tweens” featuring the character of a young girl named Amalee, has endeared her to their young children as well. “I’m all about children,” said Williams, herself a mother who worries about future generations and does what she can to change things for the better.

Knowing how the past helps to shape the future, Williams has become quite a history buff over the years and is excited about stepping on stage at Valparaiso’s historic Memorial Opera House on Saturday to perform a well-rounded set of new songs along with many past recordings.

“I’ve never performed at this venue before,” said Williams of the Memorial Opera House where early U.S. Presidents have spoken and legends like The Marx Brothers have performed. “I’m actually working on a new book that’s non-fiction where I’m putting on my little social scientist hat that has to do with towns that have a lot of cool history that makes them unique and gives them these wonderful identities and makes them wonderful places who appreciate their historical aspects and nurture them for their citizens. So hearing about this wonderful opera house really has me psyched to play there.”

One of the songs from “In the Time of Gods” sure to make it into the set list for Saturday is “Summer Child,” which has been getting radio play in recent months. “It’s around the last days of summer that I’ll be there with you, so it’d make sense. We’ll send summer off with a bang,” said Williams.

“I have a keyboard player with me named Bryn Robert who also sings beautifully. He’s been traveling with me for about five years now,” said Williams. “We’re also bringing along an opening act named Angel Snow who I met recently in Nashville and I’ve asked to join us on some dates. A Nashville songwriter can sometimes mean one thing to people, but she’s a very complex thinker and writer. I’m very much looking forward to her being with us.”

Williams’ new album and selected past titles will be available for purchase at Saturday’s concert as well as online at Amazon.com, iTunes.com and other online music sites. More: www.darwilliams.com

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