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NY singer/songwriter
returns to her roots

Dar Williams - Promised Land
(Razor & Tie)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 9, 2008
Dar Williams

Review by Tony Bonyata

On Dar Williams' first album of new original material in over three years, Promised Land, the New York-based singer/songwriter actually sounds closer to her Northeast coffee-house roots than the two more lavishly produced and mature efforts released prior to this (2003's The Beauty of the Rain and 2005's My Better Self).

Produced by Rockford, IL native Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins, Pete Yorn) the honest and often earthy arrangements are a perfect marriage with Williams' own folk-pop compositions. Songs such as the spirited, radio-friendly opener "It's Alright," along with the uptempo numbers "Buzzer" and "Go To The Woods," which actually sounds a bit like a Natalie Merchant track, all showcase Williams as both a strong vocalist and MOR popsmith that should appeal to a broad audience. While a similar upbeat and hopeful vibe continues through the track "Troubled Times," it turns out that Williams' didn't pen this number, but was instead originally written and recorded by the modern power pop band Fountains of Wayne.

One of the other songs she covers here is the introspective track "Midnight Radio" from the acclaimed rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which Wood also, not so coincidentally, produced the music for. The gentler approach of this song resonates throughout the remainder of the record with reflective folk-inspired tracks such as "Book of Love," the harrowing "The Tide Falls Away" and "Holly Tree."

Despite the possibility of getting lumped into the broad, bland and rather generic female singer/songwriter fare crowding the folk scene these days, Williams' strong sense of melody, song craft, along with one heckuva voice ultimately makes her stand tall among her contemporaries.

Related articles:

Concert review - Chicago, IL - Feb. 2007

Watch Dar Williams - "It's Alright"

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