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The Green World

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: The Green World

Artist: Dar Williams
Genre: Folk
Release Date: August 2000

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

Dar Williams' music on The Green World is, as always, pleasant, thoughtful and literate. But it's not always that compelling. In comparison with a record like David Gray's White Ladder, which gave simple songs edge with a drum machine and synth atmospherics, The Green World is very traditional. The songs are mostly subdued folk. As Williams showed on End of the Summer's ode to therapy What Do You Hear In These Sounds, she's searching for self knowledge. On The Green World, her meditative explorations are decent but not so interesting.

The songs on The Green World aren't as moving as her simple, evocative personal tales When I Was A Boy and The Babysitter's Here from her Honesty Room debut or The Ocean from Mortal City. Now in her 30's, Williams is reaching for bigger meaning. The Green World starts with two vaguely uplifting religious allegories, Playing To The Firmament, which I enjoy most for Rob Hyman's Hooters' throwback pump organ effect, and And A God Descended. Williams' songs are often about seeking inner peace or spirituality. They're amiable, positive stories though it feels like they mean a lot more to Williams than they ever could to her listeners. After All is genial but muted, with very mellow organ backing, about learning from her parents' experience and finding a meaning to life. As on a few songs on The Green World, Williams seems to shoot for a Joan Baez type of intense vocal purity but ends up sounding mannered or overly precious. Spring Street is a well written account of a woman encouraged by "distant friends" to leave a troubled but meaningful small town life by assuming an arty downtown existence. Williams clearly writes from her heart but she covers a lot of very familiar folk territory. We Learned The Sea, about a crew's last voyage, has a stark beauty, with minimal violin and cello by David Mansfield and Jane Scarpantoni, but do we really need another serious, sad sea based folk song. Calling The Moon, another austere song, is a sweet, if somewhat insipid, tribute to the universe. I Had No Right is a heartfelt tribute to Daniel and Philip Berrigan and their protests against war in Vietnam and, recently, in Iraq and Bosnia. It Happens Every Day is a nice but very restrained observation of a small college town that's sadder without a lost friend. Each individual song is poetic and sincere but it's heart to keep focused in a group of such quiet songs.

Nothing on The Green World is quite as infectious as Williams' previous rockers Are You Out There or Cool As I Am but the three uptempo songs are good and very welcome on an otherwise very sedate record. What Do You Love More Than Love, a rare chance for the good band of Graham Maby(bass), Steve Holley(drums) and Steuart Smith(guitar) to rock out, is very winning. Williams creates an upbeat mood and her warm vocal overcomes the lyrics' new age psychology about leaving a relationship for a monastery "when my love felt like another addiction." Even the lesser of the three, I Won't Be Your Yoko Ono, is likable though its lyric and throwaway music are pretty lightweight. Williams wonders if Yoko Ono sacrificed too much of her self and art, trumpets her as a source of inspiration and pledges only to similarly slavishly devote herself to a man's career if he's truly worthy. The Green World ends with Another Mystery. Its openness is easily more appealing than all the quiet, meaningful introspection that precedes it. With banjo and accordion Smith, the record's guitar/keyboard player, creates a rollicking mood for a fun, loose song. Williams sings about wanting to really live life with her partner rather than being worshipped as "an angel or sprite."

If you like straight forward, mellow folk music, you'll probably like The Green World. Williams is an appealing personality with real depth, seriously searching for truth. She has a pleasant voice and her music isn't gimmicky. I find The Green World a little boring and hard to get into. I'd like to see her, lyrically and especially musically, reaching out a little more to a wider audience.



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