Monday, August 13, 2012

Dar Williams's Olympic Pantheon

I discovered Dar Williams the old-fashioned way: by accident. Nearly two weeks ago, I was driving, listening to the radio, and Democracy Now! ended and Open Tunings came on, and before I could get to a red light and plug in my music, a song came on whose opening chords caught my attention, and made me listen to the whole thing. The song was called "This Earth", and it was from her latest album, In the Time of the Gods.

I thought it was beautiful and haunting and I wanted to hear it again. So I listened to it a half-dozen times or so on youtube, and decided I liked it enough to buy it. But at Amazon the whole album was only $5, so I figured, hey, might as well buy the whole thing...

And I've been listening to it ever since.*

One of the cool things about the album is that it's a concept album: it's a series of songs each about, or from the point-of-view of, one of the Greek Gods -- but in a modern setting, updated, applied to the contemporary world. What this means varies from song to song -- in some cases it's extremely obscure, and you'd hardly know any Hellenic Deities had anything to do with it if you weren't told; in other cases the connection is almost impossible to miss for anyone who read D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths as a child, let alone one who read it as obsessively and repeatedly as I.**

But while Williams mentioned in various interviews that particular songs were based on particular myths, I couldn't find, googling around, any comprehensive list of which songs go with which myth.

So here's a list:

"I Am The One Who Will Remember Everything"HeraEdge article
"This Earth"HephaestusMy guess, but the Edge article confirms that one of the songs is based on him
"I Have Been Around The World"VestaPreforming Songwriter Article
"The Light And The Sea"PoseidonPreforming Songwriter Article
"You Will Ride With Me Tonight"HermesEdge article & Preforming Songwriter Article
"Crystal Creek"Artemis & hunter ActaeonWNYC post
"Summer Child"PersephoneEdge article
"I Will Free Myself"DionysusCityBeat review
"Write This Number Down"AthenaPreforming Songwriter Article
"Storm King"Zeusmy guess, despite what she says here about it being Pete Seeger

Again, as I said, some of these are obvious, even to those whose Greek mythology knowledge is several decades dusty. But others aren't. Hence list.

In the meantime, I'm exploring Dar Williams's other songs, bit by bit. The local library had a copy her of her "Best-of" album, Many Great Companions, which I've only begun listening to, although I can already testify that "After All", "When I Was a Boy" and "Mercy of the Fallen" are fabulous.

She seems to be an Established Musician, so I assume someone else has heard of her (and if so, why didn't you let me know?), but I haven't seen anything from anyone I've heard of saying they like her stuff except for this rave blog post from Hendrick Hertzberg. So -- anyone out there a Dar Williams fan?

'Cause I swear, she sings like she's been touched by Apollo.

* Well, no, not continuously. But a lot. Certainly every day.

** D'Aulaires Book of Norse Myths is, I think, not nearly as well known, but it's also really good.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sorry I'm so slow to see your blog and see that you're looking for Dar fans. I originally heard "The Christians & The Pagans" done by a teen at one of my congregation's Christmas season services, so I bought "Out There Live" and fell in love. I've ended up going hard core, buying every earlier one and all the cds she's released since.

We were happily seated in the front row on New Year's Eve 2012-13 when Dar played in Middletown, CT and got to chat with her before the show. When I took my daughter to see her at Toad's in New Haven, CT for her 16th, Dar told a bunch of us we looked uncomfortable standing, and she invited us to sit on the stage to listen. She is graciousness personified.

Her writing is amazing - listening to her hone her craft through the years has been pure joy! - and the patter between songs is often funny, touching, challenging - I highly encourage you to see her live if you haven't yet!