Out There Live
Razor & Tie
Dar Williams has moved from the queen of the coffeehouse scene to the outer fringes of the pop establishment with four successful releases. Out There Live serves as a chronicle of her career from feminist solo guitar preaching to dynamic songs with a full complement of instruments and catchy melodies. The CD was recorded during her Green World tour with musicians carrying their own impressive resumes: Stewart Smith on guitar, Gang Of Four’s Gail Ann Dorsey on bass, Jeff Kazee of keyboards, and Steve Holley on drums.
The CD opens with a powerful “I am woman”-type song, “As Cool As I Am,” where Dar asserts herself as a musical force worth reckoning. The song showcases her storytelling lyrics as well as her ability to hit all the high notes. The song plays very fast leaving Dar sounding breathless by the last refrain. Among the sixteen songs are scattered solo acoustic pieces from her early days. “If I Wrote You,” “February,” “End of the Summer,” and the like are all tender songs that emphasize Dar’s vocal qualities. The lyrics are very poetic, although “February” sounds downright weepy. Songs of remembrance that use the cold New England weather as a metaphor for nostalgia and old lovers that could only have been written by a woman. “When I Was a Boy” also falls into that teary-eyed, “I remember when•” attitude, but its lyrical content about Dar’s tomboy youth reaches into social implications regarding gender raises it above the other songs.
The standout songs are ones where the band is in full force. Electric guitar, keyboards, accordion and slide guitar. “Spring Street,” a song about breaking out of that small town mentality, bridges Dar’s progression from a Boston coffeehouse soloist to a national act. “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono,” “Better Things,” and “Are You Out There” (the title of the live CD is an answer to this very question) show not just the maturity of Dar as a writer, but the complexity of the instrumentation proves her growth as a musician. The uptempo tunes and the positive messages bring her closer to the world of popular music.
True to her live performances, Dar includes intros to three songs. Her storytelling explaining the songs are just as entertaining as the song themselves. Her songs are at least partly autobiographical, but the comical stories add a little more insight into the woman up onstage. After four albums, Dar was ready to record her concerts for a live recording. This CD so succinctly wraps up her career this far, it appears as though her fifth studio recording might be for courting the commercial airwaves. This despite her fans who would rather keep her for themselves and the “subversive” independent radio stations that play her.
Razor & Tie Entertainment, 214 Sullivan St., Suite 4A, New York City, NY 10012; http://www.razorandtie.com