The Green World

Dar Williams

Razor And Tie Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


It has been said that folk singers are like pieces of oatmeal, one as non-descript as the next. Whoever said this probably has not heard the work of folk singer Dar Williams. Not only does Williams have a distinctive style of songwriting, but she has ambitious ideas. For example, the theme of her latest CD, The Green World, is the state of the world, the world's relationship with God, and her relationship with the world. These are pretty lofty ideas and if The Green World occasionally falls short of its grandiose purposes, there are definitely some fascinating moments here.

What will probably be the most talked about song on this collection is "I Won't Be Your Yoko Ono". This cute tune basically is a response to the Barenaked Ladies song "Be My Yoko Ono", and the premise is that Yoko was the real talent and not John Lennon. As a big Beatles fan, this is a bit hard for me to take, but on the other hand, it's hard to resist lines like "You don't know a person like me/I could sell your songs to Nike/And for all you know I could save your soul". The bottom line is there is enough heart here to elevate the song beyond novelty.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"What Do You Love More Than Love?" is another clever pop song in the same vein. This tuneful number has equal parts of sarcasm and soul.

However, the bulk of The Green World is very serious. The opening song "Playing To The Firmament" is a nice introduction as it poses questions about how the world got into the state it is, leaving the rest of the CD for some answers. The next song "And A God Descended" does answer back with a tale of disillusionment of religion.

Some of Williams' fans have complained that what is missing on this CD is some of her more personal statements and the intimacy of hearing just her and a guitar. Well, The Green World is very much a band effort. Every song has a guitar, bass, some sort of percussion, and usually some keyboards and the occasional cello. I agree it would have been nice if Williams could have fit in one solo song, but the band does do a good job of capturing the mood of each song just right.

As for personal songs, while the emphasis is on general commentary, songs like "After All", "Spring Street" and "We Learned The Sea" do add a more personal perspective to the theme with the same poignancy that has been the strength of her previous work, although none of them reach the level of "When I Was A Boy" from her first CD.

The Green World does seem to run out of steam toward the end. "I Had No Right" is the most overtly political song and I just don't think this type of protest song is really her strong suit. Also "It Happens Every Day" doesn't add any particularly interesting insights about the condition of life. But the CD ends on a positive note with the winsome "Another Mystery" which shows Williams entering the alt-country terrain with surprising effectiveness. Overall, this is another satisfying CD from one of folk music's rising stars.

Rating: B+

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