Dar Williams. Photo by Ebru Yildiz

The exemplary songwriting of Dar Williams is on display again on her new album, “I’ll Meet You Here,” which comes out on Oct. 1 and comes with a call to action to combat climate change.

Williams, whom I caught up with on the phone while she was on the road in Pennsylvania, will be celebrating album release day with a show at Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield.

The album opens with a duet, called  “Time Be My Friend,” and I almost fell over when I realized it was with Gail Ann Dorsey, a phenomenal bass player who was part of David Bowie’s live band from the mid-’90s on. Dorsey is also a formidable singer, and her and Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” which appears on the “A Reality Tour” live album, is downright dazzling.

Williams told me that Dorsey did some live dates with her back in 2000, and they’ve stayed in touch through the years. “Time Be My Friend” was written before the pandemic started but Williams said its sentiment rings all the more true in the age of COVID-19.

“We didn’t predict that we’d have to befriend time in a new way. We had to be kinder to time and, in a way, time was trying to be kind with us,” she explained.  Williams hopes the song acts as a soft, gentle hand on somebody’s back that says, when bad things happen, they’re just something to meet.

Then there’s “Today and Everyday.” Williams called on her friend and fellow singer-songwriter Antje Duvekot to make the video for the song. Duvekot has been making stop-motion videos for years, and she went all-out for this one.

“Today and Everyday” is about climate change and how important it is to feel empowered to be part of the solution. Williams said the song’s from the heart and is about her hope for the planet. She also thinks the video saved the song in a way. “People were saying, ‘Oh, that’s sweet,’ and I’m like, ‘No, no, this is my manifesto!’ ”

In fact, Williams, who lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, recently launched the Today and Everyday Challenge which asks participants to share on social media ways they’re doing their part, even on a tiny scale, to help save the planet. Everyone who does this will be entered to win tickets to a show for hers and an autographed album. Environmental organizations can also enter to win a private Zoom event with Williams. For details, go to darwilliams/com/about/today-everyday.

Dar Williams “I’ll Meet You Here.” Design by Sheila Sachs, Photo by Ebru Yildiz

There’s one more song on “I’ll Meet You Here” that Williams and I spoke about, called “Little Town.” I read in a press release that the song is about two small-town 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,” said Williams.

The song features Bryn Roberts on piano and Dave Eggars on cello, and, for me, it’s the standout track of the album. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional punch it would pack when I listened to it for the first time.

“It’s nothing that you did, you’ve got to understand/You’re taking it too fast, it’s going way to fast/It’s nothing that you did, it’s not the color of your skin/But one thing you should know/You’ve got to take it slow.”

The song is an excruciating yet keenly poetic look at racism and xenophobia but also what happens when a long-ingrained way of thinking shifts. Williams’ voice is haunting. Williams told me that two of the things she realized when writing her 2017 book, “What I Found in a Thousand Towns,” were what she refers to as hometown pride and the worldly welcome.

“I think in their hearts people don’t want that to be a paradox, and they don’t want to have that love of their small town or city to mean that they’re xenophobic in any way.”  These ideas are the basis of the song, which she said she’ll be performing in Brownfield.

I first became a fan of Williams in 1993 when she released her first full album, “The Honesty Room.” It opens with the song “When I Was a Boy,” and it’s one of the most poignant tracks to examine gender stereotypes that I’ve ever heard. She’s put out eight other albums since then and her gift for songwriting has never wavered.  “I’ll Meet You Here,” her 10th album and first in six years, drives that point home over eight new original tunes, one cover and a new version of “You’re Aging Well,” originally from “The Honesty Room.”

Dar Williams
8 p.m. Oct. 1. Stone Mountain Arts Center, 695 Dugway Road, Brownfield, $40. stonemountainartscenter.com


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