Infinity Music Hall & Bistro
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Dar Williams with Sophie B. Hawkins

Hartford

DETAILS

Fri, May 13, 2022
Hartford, CT
Doors: 7 PM
Show: 8 PM

Ticket INFO

Price: $39 - $49

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GENRE

Folk / Singer-Songwriter
Dar Williams
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Dar Williams’ lyrics contain bouquets of optimism, delivered on melodies alternating between beguiling lightness and understated gravity. Williams strongly believes that all of us possess our own power and ability to achieve, and she rejects the exceptionalism that encourages us to “admire that yonder star,” while making us feel small and insignificant; unworthy of shining on our own but hoping to catch enough distant light to inspire some tiny accomplishment. Williams has always been very interested in how to control our future and this album has to do with the fact that at some point, you just can’t.

Like everyone else, Williams spent 2020 in that state of non-control. She and longtime producer Stewart Lerman tracked most of the album, her 12th studio recording, in November of 2019. In late February of 2020, she cut the title tune in Woodstock with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and Larry Campbell, who produced the track and played guitars, pedal steel and twangy baritone guitar. When told they had to postpone a mid-March mixing date, Campbell said he wasn’t feeling well anyway. Turns out he’d contracted a serious case of COVID-19. That was a clear sign that at some point, you have to meet life where it meets you …the common thread throughout that these songs, the willingness to meet life as it arrives.

Dar Williams was always in the right place at the right time for the success she’s had over a 25+-year career. She rose out of the vibrant mid-90’s Boston scene, inspired by the eclectic influences of alt-rockers, Berklee jazz musicians, slam poets, and folk artists, like Patty Griffith, Melissa Ferrick, the Throwing Muses, Vance Gilbert, and Jonatha Brooke. After a year of touring non-stop with her first album, The Honesty Room, in 1994, she was invited by Joan Baez to tour in Europe and The United States.

“Good and bad things happen, and it’s not necessarily a reward or indictment. I’ve just got to meet it.” Williams observes. “Like, I’m bringing my whole life to this moment; it will surprise me, challenge me, show me where I was wrong, even make a fool out of me, but my job is to show up and not take adversity personally. Real happiness doesn't have to feel like Snoopy dancing with Woodstock; it can just be knowing you have the resilience to meet whatever comes to you. I will call that a good life.”

Dar Williams

Connect with this artist:

www.darwilliams.com

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Artist Bio

When Dar Williams starts discussing her latest album, I’ll Meet You Here, she’s not yet sure she can identify its through line; a thread that might connect its 10 songs together. But as she delves into the collection, releasing Oct. 1 on BMG’s recently launched Renew label, she mentions her attempt to turn her yard into a meadow. Unfortunately, the wildflower seeds she scattered on the grass around her home, in New York’s Hudson Valley, didn’t take. Now she just has an unruly lawn.

“It kind of has a crazy-lady look,” Williams says, laughing. “I’m on a corner in a village, so everybody sees it. I do all this remedial stuff; it’s not really working. But I know why I did it, and I know what I was going for. Generally, people are saying ‘I see what you’re trying to do.’ And I’m sure some people are shaking their heads. And I’m OK either way.”

“At some point,” she adds, “you have to meet life where it meets you … I think what the songs all have in common is the willingness to meet life as it arrives.”

We might even simplify it as “acceptance,” that concept Buddhists and behavioral therapists try so hard to teach. But that’s far from passivity; on the contrary (and unlike her lawn), Williams’ lyrics contain bouquets of optimism, delivered on melodies alternating between beguiling lightness and understated gravity.

In “Today and Every Day,” for example, she sings, There’s no time for this smug frustration, I say everyone, EVERYONE’S a power station. And we’ll light the way, but we got to say we can save the world a little every day.

But she also writes from the viewpoint of a woman who has weathered plenty of storms (as vividly described in “Let the Wind Blow”), and is no longer willing to delude herself into believing someone else’s definition of love (as noted in “I Never Knew”).

Comparing “Magical Thinking,” one of several relationship songs, with “Time Be My Friend,” from which the album takes its title, Williams remarks, “There's a piece of your brain that you have to calm in order to meet time, and to not sit there saying, ‘If I keep on following these rituals, maybe I’ll influence what’s going to happen.’ It's like, ‘Why not just be OK with what's happening now?’

“I've been very interested in how to control my future,” she adds, “and this album has to do with the fact that at some point, you just can’t.”

Like everyone else, Williams spent 2020 in that state of non-control. She and longtime producer Stewart Lerman tracked most of the album, her 12th studio recording, in November of 2019. In late February of 2020, she cut the title tune in Woodstock with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and Larry Campbell, who produced the track and played guitars, pedal steel and twangy baritone guitar. When told they had to postpone a mid-March mixing date, Campbell said he wasn’t feeling well anyway. Turns out he’d contracted a serious case of COVID-19. By the time he recovered, they knew a 2020 release was not in the cards — tarot or otherwise.

Williams instead worked on her latest book, Writing a Song That Matters, titled after the songwriting retreats she began conducting in 2013. Williams published two young-adult novels with Scholastic in the mid-2000s, along with a green blog for Huffpost, before she tackled her urban-planning study, published in 2017: What I Found in a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician’s Guide to Rebuilding America's Communities — One Coffee Shop, Dog Run & Open-Mike Night at a Time.

Insights from that book inspired “Little Town,” the album’s gorgeous, deeply nuanced centerpiece. It packs the emotional punch of Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke,” but as a quiet confession, not bold defiance.

With only her acoustic guitar accompanying the soft rise and fall of her voice, Williams inhabits the perspective of a bigoted local unwilling to welcome newcomers, cautioning,

It’s nothing that you did, it’s not the color of your skin,
But one thing you should know, you’ve gotta take it slow.

As Bryn Roberts’ piano and Dave Eggar’s cello kick in, her Archie Bunker even questions why the mayor, a lifelong friend with whom he plans each July Fourth celebration, would invite one of those new arrivals — you, especially you — to join that effort.

And as the fireworks came up above the mountain,
I saw you put your hand up to your heart,
And I saw the mayor watching, knew my kids were watching
Hoped that I would come around. Big parade, little town.

Eventually, he embraces his town’s new diversity. But that happy outcome is imbued with so much melancholy and regret, it almost evokes tears.

Williams says the song reflects two mayors who understood how change was necessary to move their towns forward.

“These mayors, who looked at new immigrant populations as a gift and went the extra mile to translate that to their old buddies, were very moving to me,” she explains. “The fact that the mayors said, ‘You can wrap your mind around this; this is exactly what we're all about,’ was not only something interesting, it’s something I've seen.”

Williams strongly believes that all of us possess our own power and ability to achieve, and she rejects the exceptionalism that encourages us to “admire that yonder star,” while making us feel small and insignificant; unworthy of shining on our own but hoping to catch enough distant light to inspire some tiny accomplishment.

“I just can't stand that,” she says. “We don’t have to stare at a star. We can find it in ourselves.”

Indeed, we can take charge of our own actions — and they matter. “Every time I figure out how to, you know, get bulk flour without using a new container, I see a little picture of a slow-mo butterfly wing, like I helped one millisecond of butterfly wing-flapping happen that wouldn’t have,” she says, alluding to the chaos theory concept known as the butterfly effect.

Williams’ literary, cerebral writing style, while quite accessible, includes several esoteric references ripe for exploration. For instance, a single line in “Berkeley” — Bought from the bookstore where “Howl” was on trial — invokes the Allen Ginsberg poem regarded as a cornerstone of the Beat movement; City Lights, the famed San Francisco bookstore; City Lights owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who published the poem; and the obscenity trial he endured because of it.

One song isn’t her own, but she loves the melody and message of “Sullivan Lane,” a retro-poppy tune about finding kindred vulnerable spirits, by Joziah Longo of folk-rock band Slambovian Circus of Dreams (coincidentally, her neighbors).

As for the album closer, “You’re Aging Well,” that one carries special significance. It appeared on Williams’ first album, then Joan Baez recorded it with her and invited her to tour Europe and the States. By anointing Williams as a folk artist worthy of attention, Baez launched her career.

“I’m the same age now that she was when she took me on the road,” Williams marvels. On this version, she meshes her elegant soprano with Roberts’ beautiful piano playing, contrasting her delicate singing with her forceful push against conventional expectations for women. When she finally rejects them and finds her own voice, she revels in its power.

Which brings us back to that through line.

“Good and bad things happen, and it’s not necessarily a reward or indictment. I’ve just got to meet it.” Williams observes. “Like, I’m bringing my whole life to this moment; it will surprise me, challenge me, show me where I was wrong, even make a fool out of me, but my job is to show up and not take adversity personally. Real happiness doesn't have to feel like Snoopy dancing with Woodstock; it can just be knowing you have the resilience to meet whatever comes to you. I will call that a good life.”

Sophie B. Hawkins

Connect with this artist:

sophiebhawkins.com

Sophie B. Hawkins has been tugging at heartstrings for decades with her powerful storytelling, crafting dizzying tunes that idle between the potently forlorn and the strangely comforting.

Born and raised in New York City, Sophie has always been an artist at heart. After attending Manhattan School of Music as a percussionist, Sophie left to pursue a professional music career.  She started singing her own songs from her drum set in various bands, playing in legendary New York City venues like Kenny’s Castaways and CBGB.

She got her first professional gig playing percussion for Bryan Ferry. After that job ended, while working in the coat check at a popular Manhattan restaurant, she handed a cassette full of demos she had written to a patron who loved her speaking voice.  That tape made it into the hands of a producer at JSM Music and it included what would be the hit single Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover.

“I got to the point of being [Roxy Music’s] Bryan Ferry’s percussionist,” Sophie says, “which is a huge gig for a young female in New York City.  But then at a certain point during rehearsals he said, ‘Look, you’ve done all these beautiful arrangements of vibraphone and marimba, but what I really need on the road is a Cuban percussion player – and you’re not that.’ So he fired me. Life said to me: ‘You can try as hard as you want but you’ll never be a Cuban percussionist.  You’ll never be something you didn’t grow up as.  But you are an artist, so be an artist.’ And then I wrote Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover, so I consider that a milestone. And it wasn’t like I wrote it to make a hit, I wrote it from my heart.  I’d written many songs before and I knew when I wrote Damn I had arrived where I needed to be.  I knew it was big, I felt it. Years after that I got a record deal.   I was a coat-check in Joe Allen’s Restaurant at 46th Street, and Mark Cohn walked in and said, ‘You have such a beautiful speaking voice I bet you’re a singer.’  And I said: ‘I’m a crappy singer, but I have about 1,000 songs.  Do you want to hear any?’ And he took my demo tape and left it at a studio and somebody picked it up and the next thing you know, I had literally seven record companies fighting over me.”

Her first album, Tongues and Tails, full of primal, fiery pop, was an immediate international success, earning her a Grammy nomination for “Best New Artist” and going gold in the United States and platinum in many European countries and in Asia. The Top 5 single, Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover has been featured in many TV shows and movies to date.

Sophie came up with the chords for this song in a happy accident when her hand slipped on the piano. "That was the mistake I was looking for," she says. "I almost shivered because I thought, now this is the big song you've been waiting for. There was this strange sense. It was like something big was coming. You've never been able to do it before and now you have to do it. It was like a baby coming out. Now that I've had a child, I can sense it was like the feeling that you may not be able to do it or that it may go badly - just an indescribable fear - but also knowing that you can't do anything to stop it."

“While Ms. Hawkins has her share of raptures on "Tongues and Tails," she confidently defies current protocol in both her lyrics and music. She is in her mid-20's, but her music looks back to handmade, pre-computer styles, especially gospel and soul music, even as it exploits layered voices and synthetic sounds. It's well within the bounds of rock, but it uses rhythmic crosscurrents and a conversational give-and-take that reflect an unusual background: African drumming. On ‘Tongues and Tails,’ Ms. Hawkins's music doesn't sound diagrammed on a digital grid; it ripples and surges and billows, unfurling spacious choruses or narrowing down to a conversational voice and a few instruments. Her singing sprawls on pillowy, airy keyboard tones, and her songs are sultry grooves, a mesh of wah-wahing funk guitars and a percussive pulse. Often, a single percussion instrument -- a bell, a hand drum, a chime -- is at the center of arrangements that are built on studio jamming rather than rhythm machines.” – New York Times

“She can write pop songs so gorgeous they melt in your mouth.” – Wilson & Alroy Record Reviews

Sophie followed the success of Tongues and Tails with her second album, Whaler, for which she first moved to Europe to promote, embarking on sold out tours and resulting in four smash European and Asian chart singles, before moving back to the U.S. to promote the album stateside.  Whaler featured the international smash ballad, As I Lay Me Down, which won an ASCAP award and was the longest-running hit single on the Billboard charts in American music history at the time of its release spending 67 weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart, including six weeks at #1.

Sophie also performed the song on the hit television series Party of Five, and it was featured prominently on the show Dawson’s Creek and in the film Now and Then. The song was also included on the Columbia Records album, All Time Greatest Movie Songs.

Whaler also featured one of her most beloved international hits, Right Beside You, which spent time climbing the dance charts as a remixed single. In fact, Whaler had so many international hits, Sophie moved to Europe to promote it, and returned to the United States four years later to start promoting the album stateside. The album, as equally gutsy as Tongues and Tails, yet an atmospheric departure, sealed her rising reputation for musical breadth and lyrical depth. The album also featured the Billboard-charting hit Only Love.

“Unlike other current practitioners of over-the-top pop, such as Toni Childs and Tori Amos, Sophie B. Hawkins values rhythmic grooves that lend some discipline to fervid emotionalism. The result is Whaler, music at once extravagantly excessive and irresistibly catchy.” – Entertainment Weekly

Sophie’s third album, Timbre, in which she broke out into a more earthy, stripped-back sound that aimed at the core of her personal expression, was released in 1999. Timbre featured the hit single, Lose Your Way written on the banjo, an instrument Sophie fought hard to keep on the mix for Dawson’s Creek and pop radio. Her fight to keep her artistic vision intact caused a public outcry in favor of Sophie’s determination to let artists be artists.  In a move toward artistic independence and integrity, Hawkins worked out an arrangement that would allow her to leave her record label while retaining the masters to Timbre. The album included the songs The One You Have Not Seen which was featured in the film 40 Days and 40 Nights and Walking in My Blue Jeans which was used by Calvin Klein to sell their new jeans. She re-released the album on her own newly born label, Trumpet Swan Productions, – then hit the road, on her own this time, just Sophie and her band touring the country in a station wagon.

“After three years of creative battles and fan support, Sony Music finally released Sophie B. Hawkins’s third album, Timbre, in the summer of 1999. Having worked with producers like Rick Chertoff (best known for his work with Cyndi Lauper and Joan Osborne) and Stephen Lipson (Annie Lennox), Hawkins decided to take complete control of her third effort. The result is a strange palette: both dark and colorful, haunting and uplifting, Timbre is a middleground between the brilliant complexities and rawness of her debut, Tongues & Tails and the radio-friendly pop of Whaler. – Slant Magazine

“The album showcases a singer who has honed and gathered her various vocal styles -- somber folk singer, saucy pop gal, note-bending jazz chanteuse -- into a sleek, multifaceted whole. And let it be noted, without taking sides in the dispute that put Timbre on hold, that the banjo on "Lose Your Way" works just fine.” – Rolling Stone

“It’s emotionally bold…” – Entertainment Weekly

2004’s Wilderness saw Sophie diving into a jazzier style for what would become her most musically-layered and emotionally complex album yet, and the first recorded entirely in her Los Angeles home studio. Playfully exploring a collage of musical influences and her own multi-instrumental talents, Hawkins played guitar, cello, keyboard, drums and a variety of exotic percussion on a recording Rolling Stone magazine singled out for its “dreamy charm.”

“Hawkins made an interesting transition to indie artist, and on her latest she expands her already-broad horizons as a writer and performer. Wilderness makes a strong case for Sophie B. Hawkins’ evolving talents—major label or no.” – Paste Magazine

“Sophie B. Hawkins lightens up on ‘Wilderness’  with a sound and aura evocative of Laura Nyro and Nina Simone.” – Philadelphia Daily News

“Her best moments come when her fanciful pop orchestrations offer plenty of compensation, as on the evocative ‘Surfer Girl,’ or when her lyrics sound so effortlessly offhand they could pass for something composed by Paul Simon.” – Washington Post

“Sophie B. Hawkins can always be counted on to create music that plays against the prevailing cultural forces. Her new CD Wilderness is all love, light and playfulness - and it’s a pleasure listening to it.” – Chicago Free Press

“Delightfully unorthodox yet keenly melodic, Wilderness finds Hawkins once again making her own distinctive mark on the musical landscape.” –  Barnes & Noble

The roiling energy and close intimacy of Hawkins’ live shows was captured in 2006’s Bad Kitty Board Mix, a two-disc set spotlighting her improvisational instincts. The album is literally a raw recording of a board mix, that she had no idea was being recorded. Sophie says she wanted this live album to be something different, “not just the songs you already know, but what they become in front of you, totally raw, exposed and new every night.”

The Crossing, released in 2012, is a searing, lush and startlingly naked chronicle of the most intense period of Hawkins’ life, in which she had come to terms with her father’s death, openly surrendered to the haunting specter of her past, discovered the exhilaration of motherhood, and arrived at a profound reckoning of acceptance. All of this emerges in songwriting and vocals that mixed the brashly playful and the unabashedly poignant in fresh ways for Hawkins.

“I was really reaching for somewhere new as I wrote these songs,” she explains. “It all started with getting a letter from my sister that my father was dying – and, in a way, that opened up not only struggle and emotion but all these opportunities for healing. I had to acknowledge that I’d never be able to heal the abyss created by my parents’ alcoholism. I had to say this is how it was, this is how it is with me now and surrender to the grace of that. These feelings have always been there in my writing but it’s like I always kind of danced around them in my songs and now I was ready to go head-on into them. The songs began to express a kind of eternal dream I’ve had, that I think we all have, for a moment of peace and clarity, for the ability to get beyond our personal struggles and move out into the larger world — knowing exactly where you stand in it.”

Hoping to sustain the stripped-bare honesty of how the songs were written, Hawkins created the album in a sonically hand-made way – recording entirely in her home studio and keeping the sparse, spontaneous immediacy of a demo-like sound. She engineered the album herself. “The album is entirely me with just drums, bass, guitar and flugel. I didn’t hire a band – I just would meet one musician at a time and have them come to the house to record and it was a very spacious and organic process. I became an engineer really by instinct. I kept things very simple and told the musicians to just have fun. It felt like it unfolded all on its own — I really wanted to retain the feel of these songs that were written completely in the moment and I think we did.

“No doubt about the quality of the song writing or about the interpretation of the songs, Hawkins remains an impressive, emotional performer. ‘The Crossing’ is an admirable portmanteau of variety and ambition. As well as all of the lead vocals, Hawkins plays piano, percussion, drums and strings on the album and is credited as the producer and engineer of all but one track.” – Everything Express

Currently, Sophie is working on releasing a new album, The Woman with the Sea Dog, and has released the first single and music video from that album, As I Lay Me Down Deux, a hypnotic re-imagining of her record-breaking number one song, As I Lay Me Down.

“Her wildly eclectic albums are full of intricately crafted and sometimes epic, sometimes disarming power pop that at times rivals Joni Mitchell’s best stuff for complexity and lyrical depth.” – Washington Blade

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