If somebody asked me to recommend a musical artist they’d never heard of, my first answer would be Tift Merritt. She’s the best.
This assumes, by the way, that people have heard of Ben Folds and Belle & Sebastian.
My second answer might be Josh Rouse or Ron Sexsmith. Or it could well be Dar Williams, the writer and singer of today’s random iTunes selection. She’d be in the top five, no question.
Of all the artists in my music collection, Dar Williams is one of the few whose songs I would just as soon read in a book as listen to on record. That’s not a criticism of her voice or melodic gifts — she’s pretty great on that front as well — but a testament to the power of her poetry.
Because Williams is a poet, a label I wouldn’t assign to most songwriters. Songs are generally meant to be listened to, not read, and laying them out on paper (or a computer screen) makes that very obvious. And I don’t mean that as a criticism to most songwriters… I’m guessing they fully appreciate the difference between song lyrics and poetry.
Mortal City was Williams’ second full-length album. For some reason I don’t own her debut, The Honesty Room, even though it contains one of my favorite songs ever, ‘When I Was a Boy.’
I featured that song on the blog just over a year ago and it is far and away the post here that has received the most continued attention. That’s because I posted the song on YouTube with a link back to Meet Me In Montauk, and the YouTube clip has received more than 15,500 views to date. Now that’s not much compared to that wedding dance clip or the keyboard cat, but it’s a pretty big number to me.