Dar Williams Heading to City Winery September 22-24

Words by Corinne Casella

Dar Williams and her cronies epitomized the indie female resurgence of the 90s. Bleeding her lyrics through song, she provided a generation in desperate need of self-identification with a voice. Twenty years after she released her breakthrough album Mortal City, Williams is touring North America and playing the album in its entirety for the first time. Revisiting many of the stops from the original tour in 1996, Williams plans to create a full-circle experience for fans of all ages.

In addition, Williams has invited celebrated authors, writers, and poets to open the show with readings of their works. Area shows will include appearances by David Levithan (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”), journalist Hendrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker) and Philadelphia’s own Jennifer Weiner (“In Her Shoes” and “Good in Bed”) at World Cafe Live.

Williams explained that the tour will resemble “a window back in time to see where this country was twenty years ago … seeds were planted in the 90s that have grown to fruition now. Seeds that allow us to look at each other as exciting people in an exciting time — in terms of gender freedom, religious freedom, regional identities, and ways of identifying ourselves in our communities as participants. It’s really positive growth. There’s more racial diversity and our kids are experiencing the rainbow as we are working toward racial justice. Twenty years later, I am seeing a much more vibrant landscape across our country. Our job is to get out there and show that the happiness we’ve found in diversity is something we can share.”

On her decision to include writers, Williams said, “Authors and poets show the strengths of our democracy. These are people who have connected the mortal city through words and poetry and the sharing of beautifully-expressed ideas. The people who are coming to speak represent that strength: the strength of our democracy through its culture. They all embrace democracy in different ways … the pen being mightier than the sword.”

Williams quit the grind of day jobs and embarked on the touring life after her successful 1994 release The Honesty Room. Armed with “notepads and napkins,” she traversed the depths of the country and began to lay the framework that would become Mortal City. Using the people and communities of the era as her muse, the songs became a time capsule. From a bathtub in Boulder to a community of heroin addicts in Washington, to coffeehouses in San Francisco, Williams turned her interpretations into poetry, cementing her place as one of the best singer-songwriters of her generation. Handed the baton from the likes of Joan Baez, Williams continues to spread her message of personal reflection with humility and an exalting message of hope.

“Given the title of the record, I also want to mention what I’ve seen since I released Mortal City,” said Williams. “In the nineties, most towns and cities were still reeling from the decline of manufacturing and the rise of shopping malls. I was working with coffeehouse volunteers, local radio stations, and promoters who were trying very hard, with limited resources, to bring music, poetry and life back into their downtowns. Thanks to people like them, not only have many places reclaimed their former glory, they’ve improved on their histories, embracing their brick-walled, tree-lined main streets as they’ve welcomed more worldliness and diversity in the present. In 1996 I said, ‘We are not lost in the mortal city’ as a statement of faith. Now, twenty years later, I say it as a statement of fact.”

Check out Dar Williams at City Winery from Sept. 22–24. For a full list of dates, go here.


TheWaster.com | Mortal City