When it comes to matters of the heart or wry observation on life’s daily struggle, there are few musical artists as cultured and erudite as Dar Williams. Her career, that spans twenty-five years, has brought many accolades for her perceptive writing and musicianship, her collaborations with many seasoned and successful fellow-artists and her penchant for activism and causes in the name of equality and dignity for all.
Folk music has always held a special place in the psyche of the Irish people. It is a music that captures the spirit of the times and is a reflection of the forces within society that drive people to endure. As a mirror held up to assist us in self-reflection Contemporary Folk music is no less diluted as the challenges of these times weigh heavily upon so many of us. Where lies the light?
Dar Williams has always been searching for that light, a path to show the way forward and a solace to those in need of restitution and renewal. Tonight, she plays from her impressive body of work across a set that lasts 80 minutes and covers many of the 9 releases she has to her name.
Her ruminations and tales between the songs are very engaging and somehow, as important as the actual performances on solo guitar. Dar can spin and weave her words into witty and pithy songs of brittle humanity in all its frailty and understated nobility. You cannot help but be enthralled by her craft and communication.
Included in the set tonight are songs from her last release, Emerald. The title track is a look back on a life lived, seen through the memories that are sparked on a car journey. The superb New York Is A Harbour comes later in the set and is filled with imagery of the expectations and broken dreams that are intertwined in the great symbol for hope and the American Dream.
There are also two new songs, Time To Be My Friend and Let The Wind Blow, that sound right at home already and could have been plucked from any period of her discography to date. Old favourites are included such as The Christians & The Pagans, The Babysitter’s Here, The Beauty Of The Rain and the timeless insight of When I Was A Boy.
February and The One Who Knows are wistful ballads and go straight to the heart while the more up-tempo Iowa has the audience joining in on the chorus. Calling The Moon and I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything are also included and the encore, We Learned The Sea, brings everything to a very pleasing end. Always welcome to these shores, Dar Williams has lost none of her ability to engage and inspire in equal measure.
Review and photograph by Paul McGee