ALBUM REVIEW: Dar Williams “Many Great Companions”

Record Label: Proper
Release Date: 11.10.2010

If each song is a character, then the album title is rather apt. “Many Great Companions” is pretty much a ‘Greatest Hits’ album, spanning the length of Dar Williams’ 15 year career as a folk singer-songwriter. It is a double album which illustrates her evolution as an artist. The listener is treated, twelve new acoustic recordings of old songs which will make you fall in love again with the aural sensation that is Dar Williams.

Admittedly, the last time I listened to Dar Williams was a while ago, like a few years ago, and back then the album that landed into my possession is “Mortal City”, released in 1996 and two songs that stood out for me on that album were: “As Cool As I Am” and “The Christians and The Pagans”. The first for its catchy tune and upbeat melody and the second for its anthropological narrative of the unification of family with different beliefs. My rediscovery of Dar Williams (and it does feel like I have rediscovered her) has come about with the album “Many Great Companions”. This double album gives the listener an overview of Williams’ entire 15 year career. The 26 songs on the album (six of which are included in both their original and newly recorded acoustic version) show Williams’ ability as a writer to identify with and illustrate the characters in her songs. Concurrently she is able to introspect and explore and so share memories and thoughts about her own life. This album illustrates how, throughout her career she has been consistently able to not take herself too seriously, as she narrates her observations of life and her personal emotions.

A new personal favourite is “Spring Street” (track 3 on the first album) I am trying to decide if it is the rawness of emotion in her voice, or the haunting lyrics which give me shivers and want to listen to the track over and over. The poetry of the lyrics: ‘This year April had a blizzard/ Just to show she did not care/And the new dead leaves/ They made the trees look like children with grey hair’ capture a melancholy specific to the changing of seasons.

On disc one Williams works with artists such as Gary Louris and Sean and Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), Patty Larkin and Mary Chapin Carpenter, and from the opening song: “Calling The Moon”, till “When I was A Boy” concluding the acoustic disc, her strong, full voice carries raw emotion, and narratives ranging in sentiment, but always explored with integrity. This evocative compilation is exquisite.

Definitely recommended for the fans and the perfect introduction to folk singer-songwriter Dar Williams.

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Candice Hirson


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