Singer-songwriter Dar Williams just released her ninth studio album, “In the Time of Gods.” It was produced by Kevin Killen, who has worked with the likes of Peter Gabriel, U2, Tori Amos and Elvis Costello. Musicians Shawn Colvin and Larry Campbell make guest appearances, as does Rob Hyman from The Hooters.

“In the Time of Gods” is home to 10 songs with themes of current social issues, including personal responsibility in helping to change the world, politics and turmoil. Williams will play songs from “Gods” as well as selections from her 20-year career in a rare two-show appearance Saturday at One Longfellow Square in Portland.

In a recent phone interview, she had high praise for Killen as well as Rob Hyman, who co-wrote four songs on the new CD.

“I knew that Kevin was well respected, and I loved how clean his sound was,” Williams said. “It was really magical. It was like driving a very finely tuned car.”

As for Hyman, she said, “Rob is so easy; he’ll sit there as I go through all these decisions, and by the time the song is done, it’s amazing, and it sounds meant to be. He raises eyebrows at every choice so I can really look at it honestly and then move in. Then he provides these musical twists and turns that are very inspiring to my lyric brain.”

Williams used parables of Greek mythology that she learned as a child to guide her songwriting on “Gods,” and the end result is some of her best work. For example, “I Will Free Myself” mentions Hesperides (a garden nymph), but is actually more about the god of wine, Dionysus.

“There is a function that alcohol can provide of freeing you, but that’s a very complicated trade-off,” Williams said. “On the one hand, it frees you; on the other hand, it imprisons you. The words are very boozy, but the feeling of the song is extremely ambivalent and reflective. But it’s hard because once you’re in the realm of cognitive dissonance, you’re in that enchanted forest of alcohol of kind of turning into this kind of elixir, and so that’s where I was trying to catch that narrator. “

Williams explained that the narrator of “You Will Ride with Me Tonight” is Hermes, the god of travelers and the messenger of the dead. “Summer Child” conjures up Persephone (goddess of the underworld) and her mother Demeter (goddess of agriculture). “Rest your head against me, I’m a friend to travelers. Hold me tight, my wings are strong,” she sings.

“This Earth” is the story of Hephaestus (god of volcanoes), who is married to the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite. Apparently, Aphrodite had disdain for her Hephaestus, and this reminded Williams of a powerful person who wants to tinker all day, is confused by his marriage, has a philandering wife, and watches “Mythbusters.”

“It was very contemporary to me,” she said. “Then it gets a little more interpretive.”

“I Have Been Around the World” brought Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, to mind for Williams. “It kind of harkens back to this idea that there’s this hearth in my life that I’m really lucky to have, and I know that. Its relevant that there’s a goddess of the hearth, that one who brings it all together.”

“Write This Number Down,” inspired by goddess of justice, Athena, was written for Williams’ young adopted daughter.

“I still believe in justice, I still believe in law, I still believe in working on the Constitution and trying to find ourselves through this document, and the way you can kind of do it in a more sing-songy way is through the voice of the person who represents the concept,” said Williams. “I wrote it for my daughter because she’s come here from Ethiopia, and I wanted to write her the song that basically said you will have your day in court, you will find justice, and on the occasions that you don’t, there’s that network of people who you can call who will get your back and help you find justice.

“I was very happy to write that song. There are so many basic rights that we have and so many opportunities to plug in to strengthen those rights, to strengthen democracy, to strengthen our neighborhoods. And so it was kind of nice to take off the cynical hat and write that song.”

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

[email protected]



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