"There are so many singer-songwriter types out there," thinks the average consumer. "How can I tell which one is right for me?" It can be a daunting prospect, so let Scene help. There are songsters specializing in angst, roots music, politics, idiosyncrasy, and love, sweet love and its attendant capacity for utter misery -- but any one-trick-ponyisms can be wearisome.
Enter Dar Williams. Even a cursory listen to her latest disc, My Better Self -- her seventh -- reveals that she's all these things and more. The peppy, almost power-pop "Teen for God" combines a magnetic melody with gentle satire; the chiming, humming "Echoes" is a plea for compassion, sans sanctimony. Neil Young's "Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere" gets a refreshing, bluegrass-influenced makeover (Marshall Crenshaw harmonizes), and Williams and Ani DiFranco coo a sweetly disquieting duet on Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." What's more, Williams can actually sing -- and like an adult, at that. This latest tour finds her embarking on her Echoes Initiative, which is raising funds for local charities (food banks, urban-ecology efforts, etc.). Everybody sings about a better world, but Williams is one of the few working toward that end.