A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tunesday 4: Dar Williams- Lucky we are when the stars leave us singing

Dar Williams, Promised Land

Here are just a few of the things I love about Dar Williams:

She wrote a song that sums up the barriers of experience both men and women of my generation underwent growing up called "When I Was a Boy." I lived this song. I remember when suddenly I was told that I couldn't do certain things or act a certain way because I was a girl. When I was little, I thought of myself as a kid, not as a girl, and so this was a shock to me. This song perfectly captures how I felt.

Now Dar has a new album, Promised Land. On this new album she helps keep Marshall Crenshaw playing-- and I have believed that Marshall Crenshaw was a genius since I listened to "Someday, Someway" over and over again in my dorm room in college. I believe that he is one of the singer/songwriters as well as guitarists who have not received nearly enough attention.

Her lyrics are mystical, and yet, in the tradition of the greatest folksingers everywhere, also often amazingly accessible. One of my favorite Christmas songs is another classic of hers, "The Christians and the Pagans." It's a screamingly funny song about what happens when a couple of NeoPagans visit their "Christ-loving uncle" at Christmas/Solstice. The imagery is amazing in this song: pies burning, hopefully instead of witches.

Then there's her cover on this album of a song by one of my favorite bands-- Fountains of Wayne-- where she does her own version of "Troubled Times." The intersection of a great singer-songwriter doing a cover of another singer-songwriter just reinforces what a blessing it is to be able to enjoy the cross-pollination of Dar's prodigious gifts with those of other current voices that speak the truth of life so clearly that it makes you ache.

Favorite songs on this new record include "The Tide Falls Away," about the gifts of experience; "The Holly Tree," about a farm wife trying to give birth; "Buzzer," about the Milgram experiments of the 1960s; and of course her cover of "Troubled Times."

Here are the lyrics to "The Tide Falls Away:"

I walked the spiraling village one night
Drawn by the word of a bell or a light
Out on the flat side it rose to a spire
All becomes clear as
The tide falls away

Parent and child and an ocean between
One is not heard and the other not seen
Too many bottles but each had a message inside
All becomes clear as
The tide falls away
All becomes clear as
The tide falls away

Lucky we are when the stars leave us singing
A hymn or a dirge when the surge of the ocean is gone
Is gone

And the old woman just stares at her hands
So many heroes have crumbled to sand
All those cathedrals were merely by men
It all becomes clear as
The tide falls away
All becomes clear as
The tide falls away
All falls away

Here is Dar discussing the album on NPR, and there is even a link to hear her performing in concert.

If you enjoy music that is both musically and lyrically rich, then Promised Land is a gift you owe yourself.

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At 2/3/09, 7:17 AM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

I only have End of the Summer, and I like it very much. Perhaps I should invest in a few more?

At 2/3/09, 4:48 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Yes, you should!!!

The Green World is also one of my absolute favorites-- every song a winner! I'd add that one in particular. There's a song about Daniel Berrigan (I Had No Right) and about a winter day in a small college town (It Happens Every Day) that I particularly love, and then this indescribable song called We Learned the Sea that you just have to hear.

At 2/3/09, 8:14 PM, Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

Between your movies and your music, I could hang out with you. I've poured you some lemonade over at my blog!

At 2/7/09, 4:54 PM, Anonymous Afantaske said...

Don't forget After All and The Babysitter's Here. Gotta Love Dar

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