Dar Williams trumpets her new interest in instruments

October 23, 1997|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Like many folk singers, Dar Williams started singing because she was stuck on lyrics.

"I started with words," she says. "Language -- that was my first love. And I love people who love words, too."

But now, with three albums and a lot of touring under her belt, her appreciation has changed a little. She still adores a well-turned phrase, but she's even more impressed by those who can use music to make the most of that phrase. "I love people who take it into the next dimension by orchestrating words, creating a sonic landscape around them," she says.

That's part of the reason why, for her current tour, Williams has traded her traditional guitar-and-voice approach for work with a three-piece combo. "It's not just a band," she says. "It's an acoustic expansion. It's what I call my chamber rock ensemble."

There's plenty of expansion on "End of the Summer," too. Unlike the relatively lean sound of her first two releases, "The Honesty Room" and "Mortal City," this new album finds the singer working with a host of high-profile session players.

"I think I might have been like a kid in the candy shop," she says. Because producer Steven Miller is well-connected in the New York studio scene, he was able to recruit some of that city's top players for these sessions. And Williams was flattered that they were so eager to play on her songs.

"They heard the potential in these various songs, and they really went with it," she says. "They felt like they had license, because I was there to say 'Yes' or 'No.' And they had license from my managers and my record label to have fun. And they did." She laughs, delighted at the memory. "I really respect that," she continues. "Any time I had a problem [with what they played], they would change it. They really listened to me. Like, there was some vocal sampling that [Miller] had done at one point, and I said, 'I can't stand it.' They just took it right off. Even though they spent almost the whole day getting it down, they took it right out."

As much as that expanded instrumental approach helped define the sound of "End of the Summer," Williams says she isn't touring with a band simply because her current album boasts a bigger sound. "We had this in the works for a few years," she

says. "We always kind of knew that this was what we were working up to -- doing at least one tour full-scale like this.

"My assumption is that we're going to be doing various permutations of accompaniment over the next couple years. Sometimes, just one player, sometimes two, sometimes three. That kind of thing."

Still, she doesn't entirely discount the experience of recording "End of the Summer."

"There are things that happen in music that are just magical, that have nothing to do with any words whatsoever," she says. "That's certainly what I learned from being in the studio for this album, and from being on the road in a band.

"I feel like the musician in me has totally woken up, and I'm really eager to continue to look at that."

Dar Williams

When: Saturday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m.

Where: Grace Fellowship Church, 9595 Deereco Road

Tickets: $15.50-$18.50

L Call: 410-521-9099 for information, 410-481-6500 for tickets

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Dar Williams' new release, "End of the Summer," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6131. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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