The early recordings of singer-songwriter Dar Williams transport the listener to a New England coffeehouse — the setting in which her songs came to life in the early '90s. The topical narratives' insights make every word essential. Over the course of Williams' career since then, a flower garden has grown where there was first just rich soil. More and more with each album, her sound has grown lush with accompaniment. As her songs have become less demanding and more accessible, they have also become easier to disregard as background pop music.
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On her forthcoming release, Many Great Companions, due out this month, Williams sheds the decor and revisits many of her greatest songs acoustically with special guests including Sean and Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek and Mary Chapin Carpenter. In the live setting as well, Williams stays mostly true to her folk roots, typically playing small venues and folk festivals and keeping the accompaniment to a minimum. An exception was her recent orchestral concert with the IBIS Chamber Music Society in Lexington, Massachusetts. South Florida fans can expect the more stripped-down version when Williams plays the intimate Labyrinth Cafe.