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Tao of Dar

Folk singer Dar Williams goes looking for the promised land


For her seventh album, Dar Williams hooked up with Liz Phair's producer Brad Wood.
  • For her seventh album, Dar Williams hooked up with Liz Phair's producer Brad Wood.

Dar Williams is having a busy morning at home. As Williams fields interview questions about her fall tour and her new CD, Promised Land, she also deals with the needs of her 4-year-old son, Stephen, and a shifting schedule that has put several phone interviews in rapid succession.

"Sorry, I'm multi-tasking," Williams says, as she tries to answer a question, tend to her son (who wanted to show his mother a pepper he had found, presumably from the family garden), and deal with an incoming call for another interview.

But if daily life includes a measure of chaos for Williams these days, she continues to have things under control when it comes to music.

Promised Land, Williams' seventh studio album, is yet another in an unbroken string of solid efforts that showcase her immediately appealing folk-pop sound and sharply drawn lyrics. The path she took in creating the CD, though, included a few departures, most notably the choice to work with a new producer, Brad Wood, who has a rock not folk background, and a different group of musicians.

Wood, in fact, has praised Williams for her willingness to step outside of her comfort zone in recording Promised Land. It's a compliment Williams happily accepts, but not without downplaying any artistic courage she showed in recording the album.

"I chose him because he fit my comfort zone. I'm pleased that he thought I was being so brave," Williams says. "And it's good for people to believe that I'm being brave. So by all means, present me as a brave person."

Promised Land ends up fitting comfortably alongside her most recent albums. A few songs have a stronger rock edge, including the brisk, album-opening "It's Alright" and "Go to the Woods." And while the rhythm tracks are a bit more assertive on other songs like "The Easy Way" and "Buzzer," these tunes still strike an appealing balance between pop and folk as Williams showcases her familiar ability to craft graceful melodies. There are also quieter songs, such as "You Are Everyone" and "Holly Tree" that connect Promised Land directly back to Williams' folkier roots.

What will sound different is Williams' live show on her first run of dates to promote Promised Land.

Having toured in recent years with a full band and in a solo acoustic format, Williams this fall is performing in a trio, with keyboardist Bryn Roberts and percussionist Everett Bradley.

"It's a little more theatrical than a band because it's a little bit more unusual," Williams says. "There's all the rhythm of a band, but there's also the lyrical focus [of solo performance]. So that does encompass both ends of the spectrum of folk and rock."

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