Williams refreshing, but lacks depth

Dar Williams' music is in no man's land.

It's too poppish to be country, has too many plugged-in instruments to be true folk. About the only label that seems to fit is the generic "singer-songwriter" moniker.

Williams brought her bag of songs, from seven albums released since 1993, to Liberty Hall Wednesday night.

She did her best to make the gig seem like a coffee house experience, introducing almost every song by name and explaining why she wrote it, or what she was going through at the time.

But the five-member band behind her kept it from being simply about the songs. Her albums are well produced -- perhaps over-produced -- and her concert backup bordered on overkill at times. Twice on Wednesday, all five members were providing backup vocals at the same time, which took the focus off the words and Williams voice.

Williams' lyrics shone through when she played alone on stage, as she did on "After All" and "The Babysitter's Here." She might not be the world's best guitarist, but she plays well enough to back up her sweet voice and simple yet deep lyrics.

Williams lacks the melancholy angst you've come to expect from singer/songwriters. While her band is playing, she bounces to the music like a fifth-grade trombonist tapping his foot to the beat, and she seems to always have a smile on her face while belting out lyrics. The approach is a bit refreshing, but that angst is what gives a lot of singer/songwriters their apparent depth.

Williams says she's delving into a "fuller" sound on her latest record. That might land her mainstream pop radio play in the same way Shawn Colvin has crossed over at times.

Until then, she'll likely stay in no man's land.


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