Album review: "In the Time of Gods"
By Geoffrey Himes
Friday, May 11, 2012
Veteran singer-songwriter Dar Williams has said she titled her new album "In the Time of Gods" because the songs are an attempt to view the modern world through the lens of ancient Greek myths. The computer geek in the song "This Earth" is based on Hephaestus; the environmentalist in "Crystal Creek," on Artemis; and the biker in "You Will Ride With Me Tonight" alludes to Hermes.
None of these connections are made explicit in the tunes as recorded, but the background story does elucidate the Olympian tone of the songwriting, where the follies of modern life are viewed from a lofty distance. This allows the songs to take in the big picture, addressing larger issues that more typical, confessional folk songs can't grasp, but also lending a rather humorless earnestness to the proceedings.
The album's grand ambition is underlined by the presence of Elvis Costello producer Kevin Killen, who tilts Williams's folk sound in the pop direction with a muscular rhythm section and layered harmonies.
Williams's husky alto is as lovely as ever, and when it grabs hold of sharpened details, as in the song "I Am the One Who Will Remember Everything," about child soldiers, it's quite effective. Too often, though, the effort to blend Greek gods and modern problems results in a prettified vagueness.