I had wanted to mention Dar Williams in early December, because of her winter tour dates (plus, on her latest album, Promised Land, she has a Christmas-type song called "Holly Tree") - but you know how it is with the busy holidays and unexpected laziness. The good thing about active musicians is that they are always on tour...
What Dar Williams is doing for her Greatest Hits double-disc album, Many Great Companions, is that she's asked musician friends to help her record her hit songs. The result is a who's who of Americana musicians, from Sara & Sean Watkins to Mary Chapin Carpenter to Patty Larkin to Motherlode to Gary Louris (Jayhawks), and the songs they're doing are generally more organic and acoustic versions of their original counterparts.
If you're unfamiliar with Dar Williams' seven previously albums, this is a great starting point. Not only do you get twenty compiled tracks from all of those earlier albums, but you also get "revisited" version of some of those songs. Think of this revisited disc as warm campfire version. Standout revisited tracks includes "Iowa", featuring several stars singing: "Iiiiooooowa". Her record label seems to really like "If I Wrote You", with Louris on acoustic guitar. What's lacking in the revisited version the backup harmonies by Shindell, originally appearing on End of the Summer in 1996.
So, between the two disc, I'll have to confess that I did enjoy the original version much better. There's several reason for this, but it just comes down to that there are a more varied instruments and sound effects on the original studio versions. They're also often more uptempo and louder - thank goodness the compilation starts off with "It's Alright" from her last album, Promised Land, my personal favorite from that album. Even tough calls like the two versions of "As Cool As I Am", the original electric version holds a slight edge over the revisited version.
Either way, you can't lose, because you have both version on one release. Many Great Companions is to be release on October 12th via Razor & Tie. It is considered her eight studio album, and I think is a very attractive album for those interested in Dar Williams for the first time. For old fans, this would make a nice "companion" on your CD shelves.
I'm including her upcoming tour dates, although I was confused by the words of "Residency" in her tour description, this just means repeated appearance.
Oct 15 – New York, NY – City Winery|
Oct 16 – New York, NY – City Winery
Oct 26 – Evanston, IL - SPACE
Oct 27 – Madison, WI - Barrymore Theatre
Oct 29 – Minneapolis, MN – Guthrie Theater
Oct 30 – Minneapolis, MN – Guthrie Theater
Nov 5 – Portsmouth, NH – South Church
Nov 6 – White River Junction, VT – Tupelo Music Hall
Nov 14 – Seattle, WA –Triple Door|
Nov 15 – Seattle, WA – Triple Door
Nov 18 – Arcata, CA – The Jambalaya
Nov 19 – Crystal Bay, NV – The Crystal Bay Club
Nov 20 – Livermore, CA – Livermore Valley Performing Arts
Nov 21 – Los Angeles, CA – Hotel Café
Nov 22 – Los Angeles, CA – Hotel Café
Dec 26 – Brooklyn, NY – The Bell House
Dec 29 – Norfolk, CT – Infinity Hall