Album Review: Dar Williams – Emerald

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American singer-songwriter Dar Williams releases her new album on June 1st 2015 entitled Emerald.  Dar’s certainly not green when it comes to making good music, and this is her sixteenth studio album, and her first album for three years.

Williams decided to release Emerald through a crowd-funding page on Pledge Music in order to get back control of her music and promotion, and therefore direction as a creative artist, following her contract with Razor & Tie expiring.

Emerald also sees Dar team-up with friendly artists such as Jill Sobule, Richard Thompson, Jim Lauderdale, The Milk Carton Kids, The Hooters, Lucy Wainwright and The Roches.

The opener, Something To Get Through has vocal echoes of Aimee Mann. Track two, the energetic FM Radio (name checking Bruce Springsteen), is most enjoyable and for me the stand-out track.  It will get spins on FM Radio!

Empty Plane is rather weak and I feel the same about Emerald, the title track.

Slippery Slope is pleasant enough and Here Tonight is a good song as it has some zest, lift and life about it. Weight Of The World and Johnny Appleseed (interesting lyrics/sentiment) have merit. Girl Of The World, Mad River and New York Is A Harbour are back to yet more plainsongs, and all sounding very lost and forlorn, which is the case for most of the record.

Although Dar’s evolved and well-respected as a sincere artist, I suggest she’s perhaps now running out of ideas, hence all the collaborations and covers.

That said, if you enjoy the pain and performance and piano of Joni Mitchell – chunks of this cd remind me of Blue – then this is right for you.

For me, average with a few gems, but no sparking emeralds.

Mark Watkins