Much of my music collection can be sorted into two categories. There's music to protest by, music that shines a spotlight on the world's injustices, played by musicians who support causes I believe in while playing some damn fine tunes with compelling lyrics. This music educates me and helps renew my convictions when I'm weary. Then there's music that provides a soundtrack for my life, songs that help me recognize myself, whether I want to or not. This is the music I play as I rail at God, cry over wounded relationships, or dance to exhaustion when I'm home alone.
The music I listen to the most falls into both categories. Singer-songwriter Dar Williams is part of the stack that remains closest to my stereo.
Raised in the suburbs of New York, Williams, 33, began her career on the Boston coffeehouse circuit in the early 1990s after graduating from Wesleyan University. In her warm soprano voice, she sang story-songs filled with startling insight and touches of wry humor, often from a child's perspective in a manner that captured wonder without becoming cloying. She steadily received both critical and popular notice; one New York Times critic called her songs "wordy rushes of truth." As Williams made the transition from local to national performer, word also spread over folk music Internet lists, helping to create Williams' intensely loyal and loudly enthusiastic following. (Williams now has her own e-mail list; subscribers call themselves "Dar-lings.")