Last Call

Outtakes: This album is far more political than your early work. What led to that?

Dar Williams: With this album, I wanted to telescope the last 200 years or so and examine the crossing of personal life and politics. The hope was to create something that was a positive response to the fears we have today. I make comparisons between our government's monolithic agenda and the doomed empires of the past: Rome, Germany, Britain. It's all very funky, but in the end, I wanted to focus on movements as opposed to politics.

You're critical of religion. How much of that criticism comes from personal experience?

Dar Williams, sweet but bitter
Dar Williams, sweet but bitter

There's something disturbing about a government that cowers to the churches. The juxtaposition of righteous faith and ambition is unbelievable. True belief is one thing I wouldn't touch, but using that for legislative advantage... "Teen for God" was a blend of my own experiences and that of a close friend's. You're young and you have a real passion for God, but how much of it is propaganda? The social regulation of it is questionable and creates anxiety and a sense of fear. The Christian right is all about social order but turns a blind eye when it's convenient.

You duet with some diverse artists, from Ani DiFranco to Soulive.

Originally, "Two Sides of the River" was very sparse and I wanted to make it bluesy, so I got them to amp it up and give it some cred. With "Comfortably Numb," I always thought a woman should record it, but I thought it needed another woman. Ani was my dream choice.

What's your take on the music industry?

It's difficult. When the Internet first surfaced, it was like we were taking back the music world. Some 21-year-old in Kansas with no access could have the Wells Fargo truck back up at their door. Then any attempt to expand the dial stopped. Now, you either have an audience-defined career or an industry-defined career, rarely both.

One review cited your appearance as a "real person" as key to your appeal.

There is a parallel between manicured hands and a manicured mind. For some artists, you want the polish; for others, true storytellers, you want a sense of access, the feeling that they see you out there and can be honest about their flaws. — Larry Carrino

Dar Williams performs at 8 p.m. Friday, March 24, at the Harriet Himmel Theater, 700 S. Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $31. Call 561-361-1000.

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