Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
My Better Self
Genres: Folk, Pop, Rock
As the folk singer-songwriter continues to incorporate more pop elements, Dar Williams conjures a whole coming-of-age era in an album that suggests a 1970s soundtrack suffused with 1960s idealism. My Better Self's opening ... more »
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As the folk singer-songwriter continues to incorporate more pop elements, Dar Williams conjures a whole coming-of-age era in an album that suggests a 1970s soundtrack suffused with 1960s idealism. My Better Self's opening track, "Teen for God," evokes the bouncy innocence of Bible camp and the bittersweet ironies of innocence lost. "Echoes" sounds like it could have inspired a singalong around that campfire, a secular hymn for the global village about the big impact of small actions. On Williams's revival of Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," Marshall Crenshaw provides vocal counterpoint and stinging guitar, while she teams with Ani DiFranco for a disembodied duet on Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." With its intimations of immortality, "Blue Light of the Flame" features a shimmering keyboard generating space-age atmospherics reminiscent of early David Bowie. "So Close to My Heart" and "The Hudson" (with harmonies from Patty Larkin) return Williams's music to its folk base, but much of the rest suggests rites of passage, at a time when all sorts of "better selves" seem open to possibility, with the radio always on. --Don McLeese More Dar Williams
The Green World
The Beauty of the Rain
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Bradley F. Smith | Miami Beach, FL | 12/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Over the years, Dar's album formats have taken on a certain similarity: A few bouncy originals to kick things off, then a cover or two, a few stripped down acoustic "folk" tunes, a confessional or two, all infused with a vocal or two by the occasional guest artist. This time, we get Marshall Crenshaw, who lives near where Dar recorded this album in Woodstock, NY, and Ani DiFranco and Patty Larkin, plus the members of Soulive. This is a pretty record. It's got what seems a first: a straight-ahead attempt at a blues: "Two Sides of the River." It's better for its instrumental qualities than its lyrics. Also, Dar's got a bit of a river fetish going this time. "Hudson" also refers to one, though river metaphors, in general, are a tad hoary. I think "Teen For God" is among her wittiest originals. And I guess I'm the only one who's never heard Neil Young's ancient "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," so this cover sounds pretty cool to me, and I think it fits Dar's style very well. "Echoes" reminds me of nothing so much as Julie Gold's treacly "From A Distance." Overall, this adds positively to Dar's discography, though it won't make any dent in the pop charts, which is too bad, though she's not that kind of artist anyway. If anyone reading this is still a Dar novice, which seems unlikely, try "The Honesty Room" first. It's her first, and still best, album."
Jonathan Landry | Fairfax, VA USA | 09/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think this CD is fantastic, and fans of Dar will not be disappointed at all. However, as great as it is, I don't think it deserves five stars. Maybe 4.5 stars. The songs have a harder edge to them than her usual material, both in the lyrics and in the music itself. It's not a "folky" as I'm used to with Dar. And that's not a complaint, she sounds like a natural with the harder edged material and right at home. The originals are all first rate, and her cover of Neil Young's "Everyone Knows this is Nowhere" is good as well; she makes it her own. The song that will probably get the most attention will be her cover of Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." Because it's a cover of Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and because it is a duet with Ani Difranco. I like it, she doesn't do a straight ahead, note-for-note cover, instead she makes it her own in her own style. And I like how she doesn't even try to replicate Gilmour's guitar solos, instead she skips the first one, and has an acoustic guitar and voice "collage" for the second sole. Recommended."
Still waiting for the next "The Ocean"...
Jeremy J. Goard | Northern California | 09/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""My Better Self" is arguably Dar's most accomplished album since "Mortal City", but lyrically it still falls well below the mark set by her first two albums. Somehow the major poetry ("major" as in Paul Simon, later Lennon/McCartney, earlier Billy Joel major) in songs like "Traveling Again", "When Sal's Burned Down", "The Babysitter's Here", "Iowa", "As Cool As I Am", and "Western New York" turned into a Frankenstein third album, and then two nice sounding albums with far too many boring cliches, and now this: a *very* nice sounding album with some great collaborations, where, unfortunately, the best poetry is in the covers.
If the above seems surprisingly negative for a 4-star review, it's because Dar still has one of the most amazing voices out there, and because she and her people have gotten very skilled at blending the best elements of folk, indie pop, and old-school Beatles pop into something both soothing and challenging to my ear. As a poetry lover, though, I have to say that Dar needs to go back and read some Auden, some Millay, some... something. The author of "The Ocean" has far too much poetic talent to be coasting."