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on December 2, 2005
Over the years, Dar's album formats have taken on a certain similarity: A few bouncy originals to kick things off, then a cover or two, a few stripped down acoustic "folk" tunes, a confessional or two, all infused with a vocal or two by the occasional guest artist. This time, we get Marshall Crenshaw, who lives near where Dar recorded this album in Woodstock, NY, and Ani DiFranco and Patty Larkin, plus the members of Soulive. This is a pretty record. It's got what seems a first: a straight-ahead attempt at a blues: "Two Sides of the River." It's better for its instrumental qualities than its lyrics. Also, Dar's got a bit of a river fetish going this time. "Hudson" also refers to one, though river metaphors, in general, are a tad hoary. I think "Teen For God" is among her wittiest originals. And I guess I'm the only one who's never heard Neil Young's ancient "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," so this cover sounds pretty cool to me, and I think it fits Dar's style very well. "Echoes" reminds me of nothing so much as Julie Gold's treacly "From A Distance." Overall, this adds positively to Dar's discography, though it won't make any dent in the pop charts, which is too bad, though she's not that kind of artist anyway. If anyone reading this is still a Dar novice, which seems unlikely, try "The Honesty Room" first. It's her first, and still best, album.
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on September 13, 2005
I think this CD is fantastic, and fans of Dar will not be disappointed at all. However, as great as it is, I don't think it deserves five stars. Maybe 4.5 stars. The songs have a harder edge to them than her usual material, both in the lyrics and in the music itself. It's not a "folky" as I'm used to with Dar. And that's not a complaint, she sounds like a natural with the harder edged material and right at home. The originals are all first rate, and her cover of Neil Young's "Everyone Knows this is Nowhere" is good as well; she makes it her own. The song that will probably get the most attention will be her cover of Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." Because it's a cover of Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and because it is a duet with Ani Difranco. I like it, she doesn't do a straight ahead, note-for-note cover, instead she makes it her own in her own style. And I like how she doesn't even try to replicate Gilmour's guitar solos, instead she skips the first one, and has an acoustic guitar and voice "collage" for the second sole. Recommended.
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on September 24, 2005
"My Better Self" is arguably Dar's most accomplished album since "Mortal City", but lyrically it still falls well below the mark set by her first two albums. Somehow the major poetry ("major" as in Paul Simon, later Lennon/McCartney, earlier Billy Joel major) in songs like "Traveling Again", "When Sal's Burned Down", "The Babysitter's Here", "Iowa", "As Cool As I Am", and "Western New York" turned into a Frankenstein third album, and then two nice sounding albums with far too many boring cliches, and now this: a *very* nice sounding album with some great collaborations, where, unfortunately, the best poetry is in the covers.

If the above seems surprisingly negative for a 4-star review, it's because Dar still has one of the most amazing voices out there, and because she and her people have gotten very skilled at blending the best elements of folk, indie pop, and old-school Beatles pop into something both soothing and challenging to my ear. As a poetry lover, though, I have to say that Dar needs to go back and read some Auden, some Millay, some... something. The author of "The Ocean" has far too much poetic talent to be coasting.
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on June 9, 2006
There is no question that Dar Williams is a remarkable songwriter. The difficulty for all songwriters comes when they try to render it into a sound recording. There are many choices to make - Do I keep it raw? Do I produce it? And to what degree? I love all of Dar's work, because her songwriting carries it no matter what is going on in the production. And it often takes artists years for their songwriting and production to sync up. Well, Dar has done it. She has created (with help) a remarkably well-produced work that can stand up to any major label album (and this is no small achievement). She has come into her own as an artist and a musical icon.

As for the reviewer below who lambasts the album just because he doesn't like her cover "Comfortably Numb", that just shows a lack of appreciation of the artist and a prejudice towards anything that doesn't fit his tastes. For those listeners who like the raw releases of Dar's early work, you may not like this album as much as her earlier works, but her brilliance is shining as brightly as it ever was in this album. Every song is outstanding, lyrically and production-wise. The rendition she does of "Comfortalby Numb" is stunning. It subtley takes the song to a new level, with Ani Defranco on backing vocals. The song seems far more relevant today and in the context Dar puts it in than it did with Pink Floyd. Dar Williams is growing as an artist, experimenting and rendering beauty at every turn. Perhaps her listeners would do well to follow her lead.
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on October 17, 2006
I went to Borders ten minutes before opening the day this album was released. Listening to the CD beforehand seemed like a waste of time because I love (LOVE) Dar Williams and was certain I would love this album. It stayed in my car's player for about 4 weeks before I and my fellow Dar-loving roommate admitted the sad truth: we hated (HATED) the CD. I like the lyrics for the most part, but she didn't pull the songs together this time. I don't know what sound she was going for with songs like, "Liar" and "Two sides of the River", but it doesn't work for me, and doesn't work with her voice and style in my opinion. I like the tune of "So Close to my Heart," but the repetition of the phrase 'close to my heart' immediately gets (and stays) really annoying. To be fair, I am a fan of Dar's raw stuff - Dar and guitar, and minimalist everything else and feel that to mix the honesty of her voice and lyrics with mainstream pop-culture-esque accompaniment seems vulgar. Listen before you buy - this certainly is a departure from Dar's norm; and honestly, are you all serious about loving this album so much?
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on November 12, 2005
With the exception of Liar and Nowhere which are good, I think this CD is filled with outstanding songs. I think the Pink Floyd cover of Comfortably Numb is superb, Empire and Teen for God are excellent commentaries. I love Dar and can't understand why she isn't more mainstream, her music is some of the best there is to offer and few people know it is out there. Keep them coming Dar, and don't forget us at the Egg.
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on May 13, 2006
Dar explores different musical directions in this CD, and it is SO refreshing. The lyrics are powerful on most songs and the melodies inventive and creative. I like "So Close to My Heart" and "Echos" the best. "I'll miss you till I Meet You" is very poignant. It expresses feelings many of us have about the meaning of our lives and the important relationships that make up the bricks and mortar of our souls. Pink Floyd remake was OK. Anything by Floyd reminds me of all the people in college who did too many drugs and had oversized egos. Her collaboration with Ani DeFranco seems a little odd. The rest of the CD is a total gem. "Empire" is interesting as she veers into the political arena. This also appears like the most talented group of musicians she has ever played with, a marked improvement over earlier CD's.

This is a vast improvement over her early works. GREAT JOB! Thanks Dar for proving to me that you are just as good as Richard Shindell and John Gorka.
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on October 7, 2005
This is a very good album which past Dar Williams fans will enjoy. Singles which stand out to me are:

"Teen for God" - reminds me of Alleluia from Honesty Room. Upbeat and happy, but tinged with sadness and regret.

"Echoes" - this was written by others, but I don't know that I've heard it before. It did sound so natural familiar that maybe I have.

"Empire" - political commentary similar to "Bought and Sold".

"Comfortably Numb" - an unbelievably good reinterpretation of Pink Floyd's song.

Of course, there are many other great songs on this album. I won't claim this is her best album, because that depends so much on how the album songs after frequent repetition, but this is definitely a very good album that belongs with all her other albums. For those who have not heard Dar before, this will give you a good sense of most of her albums.
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on September 26, 2005
This is a great CD by a stellar musician and if you don't get yourself a copy you will be doing yourself a great disservice. Those of you who already love Dar's music and know what she has to offer will not be disappointed. Those of you who are new to her music will surely become new die-hard fans and will begin buying all her CDs Start at the beginning, with The Honesty Room.

"Miss You Till I Meet You" is a very sweet song with lovely backing vocals.

"Echoes" is the first single. Though it's a great song, she did not write this one so I hesitate to say it's the best. But I do love the message: that everything you do "echoes" around the world. Everything matters. It's true!

"Comfortably Numb" (yes THAT one) is a gorgeous remake. It features another musical goddess, Ani DiFranco. It's even more haunting than Pink Floyd's original.

"So Close to My Heart" is a beautiful love song written to her son. It's sound is, to me anyway, most like earlier Dar Williams songs. For some reason it reminds me of Peter Himmelman, as well. Lovely.

Another favorite of mine (who am I kidding? they're all spectacular) is "You Rise and Meet the Day". The melody is so, I don't know, comfortable? It makes me smile.
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on September 14, 2005
I've been a longtime Dar fan, and this album hits the spot. Her venture into covers of other artists' songs paid off completely, those prove to be some of my favorite songs on the album. Also the album is (to me) edgier than her more recent albums, and that's both refreshing and timely. The only "miss" on the album, which is otherwise one hit after another, is "The Hudson," which falls flat both musically and thematically, but it is so outshined by the other tours de force here that this absolutely deserves 5 starts. This is a great first album for a Dar-Williams-fan-to-be, you won't be disappointed!
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