February 1998

Dar Williams - End of the Summer
Razor and Tie RT2830-2
Released: 1997
HDCD Encoded

by Jay Piriz

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***

[Reviewed on CD]Dar Williams is a musical poet. Her style of music has typically been in the vein of folk-rock, but this new release is decidedly tipping the scales toward the rock side. Williams' music is eerily similar to the music of Janis Ian. If you like Ian, you will like Williams.

Not unlike Williams' other works, this effort continues her story-telling style of songwriting. Williams brings her Massachusetts life experiences into her songs: Real-world stories of growing up and dealing with the difficulties of life, and tongue-in-cheek observations of the absurd in our world. As Williams says in the lyrics of the title song "...there are just some moments when your family makes sense."

There are a couple of real rock-n-rollers on this CD. One of them is the sixth track, "Teenagers Kick Our Butts," a song about the inspiration, rage and visionary qualities of youth. The last track on the CD, "Better Things" is a tune about optimism and looking for the things in life that are, well...better. It's a sort of Zen-like chant with a nice acoustic guitar halfway through the mantra. The second track, titled "Party Generation," is a "Forever Young" sort of anthem, with a choral Wayne and Garth "Party on!" shout at the end of each chorus.

The quality of this recording is not offensive, but it is not particularly noteworthy either. I really don't have much to say about the recording quality. I have heard many recordings of this kind of music that present the voices and acoustic instruments (which are typically the focal point) in much more impressive fashion. The liner notes indicated that this effort was recorded in Dar Williams' bedroom. Hmmm.

Those who enjoy folk-rock music will thoroughly enjoy the poetic, musical musings of Dar Williams. She is an inspired performer with that magical storytelling quality that we seldom encounter. I look forward to her next release--maybe on a new label and perhaps away from the bedroom as a recording venue.