Singer-songwriter Dar Williams is one those artists that seemingly got lost and forgotten in the late 1990s. It's hard to imagine considering what a boost her folk-pop genre got with the success of Sarah McLachlan and to some degree Sheryl Crow.
It's a reminder of how hard it is to sustain a reasonable degree of musical exposure and recognition for a female solo artist unless you stray completely pop (see Britney Spears) or somewhat pop (see Liz Phair) to remain radio-friendly and audibly sexy.
For New York native Dar Williams, that type of popularity doesn't mean so much, especially since she devotes so much time to political and social causes. Unsurprisingly, those ideals don't stray from her latest album Promised Land.
The catchy up-tempo melodies of "Buzzer" can't distract from the many subtle and not so subtle criticisms of contemporary society ("'But you're scraping by, taking orders from above.' / I get it now, I'm the face, I'm the cause of war / We don't have to blame white-coated men anymore"). With a more calm voice, Williams projects sympathy in her poignant examinations on the world in "The Business Of Things" and "The Tide Falls Away."
Williams doesn't wander away too far from her coffeehouse-playing roots. She keeps to her mellow and down-to-earth sensibilities, which make her Americana song "It's Alright" and her country tune "Go To The Woods" that much more cooler.
Produced by Brad Wood (Pete Yorn, Liz Phair), it's no wonder that Williams covers "Midnight Radio" from the famous rock musical Hedwig And The Angry Itch to which Wood produced the soundtrack. Unlike the more tragically sounding original, Williams provides a more soothing version of the song, like she does on the Fountains Of Wayne cover "Troubled Times."
With her latest effort, Dar Williams makes music that is both easy on the ears and gentle for the soul.