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About the Album

The Beauty of the Rain, Dar Williams' fifth full-length studio album, has possibly been met with more mixed reviews from Dar's "faithful" than from the general public (althought I'm finding several reviews with nary a negative word in them which conclude with something along the lines of a baffling 3 out of 5 stars). There have been complaints about Dar's style becoming more mainstream and her lyrics becoming less clever from those who prefer her folk origins. These are legitimate complaints, and I agree with many of them. Forgetting about the prior expectations, though, I think this is a very solid contemporary folk album. Even if it is a bit short.

There are a host of guest appearances on BotR, and its sound is perhaps even more slick and produced than its predecessor The Green World. The two songs that are closest in sound to Dar's early work are the title track and the sort of country-ish "The One Who Knows." In my opinion these are two of the high points of the album ("The Beauty of the Rain" in particular is another one of those Dar songs that positively makes me shiver), so maybe I'm a little more nostalgic than I thought. On the first couple listens, none of the songs really seem to stand out, but give it a few more. It's all pretty complex, musically, and there is plenty of variety to be found here. As with Dar's other releases, there are the slow ballads and the upbeat cheery tunes, and none are songs I can see myself regularly skipping. Also, Dar's voice, in my opinion, just keeps getting better.

Lyrically, The Beauty of the Rain is honest and direct as usual, and probably even more optimistic than Dar's earlier work. All the work on BotR seems to be even more uplifting and hopeful than usual, although in spite of this and her recent marriage it never comes across as syrupy or obnoxious. The last song, "I Have Lost My Dreams," according to the liner notes, is a refutation of the idea that only depression produces good art and comes from Dar's "determination to transform her new happiness into new ideas and even better art." Whatever you think of the change for the happier on this album, that sounds like an admirable goal to me. Music that is this happy and this good is kind of difficult to find. Complaints that Dar's lyrics have lost some of the cleverness they had on her earlier albums are not unfounded. Gone, for the most part, is the gentle humor of songs like "Alleluia," "Flinty Kind Of Woman" and "The Christians and the Pagans," although there is still an echo of it in the family song "Your Fire Your Soul."

You don't have to take my word for any of this; you can hear 6 songs from BotR at http://www.darwilliams.com/flash/.

As with The Green World, the liner notes of BotR contain little blurbs about each song, a nice little addition for those of us who enjoy her banter in concert. Curiously, they also tell the locations where each song was begun and finished.

Kinda Boring (but Informative) Stuff

Tracklist. The length of the names of Dar's songs seems to be evening out at 4 to 5 words. Gone are the days when we had "My Friends" and "What Do You Hear In These Sounds" commingling so filthily on the same album! The outlier here, "Whispering Pines," is a cover of The Band's song from their eponymous album.

  1. The Mercy of the Fallen, 4:11
  2. Farewell to the Old Me, 2:45
  3. I Saw A Bird Fly Away, 2:51
  4. The Beauty of the Rain, 3:00 (gah! so short!)
  5. The World's Not Falling Apart, 4:24
  6. The One Who Knows, 3:47
  7. Closer To Me, 3:42
  8. Fishing In The Morning, 2:38
  9. Whispering Pines, 4:00
  10. Your Fire Your Soul, 3:04
  11. I Have Lost My Dreams, 3:05

Total Time: 37:27

As noted above, the guest artists on BotR are legion. Here, for your linking delight, they all are, along with their other band credentials where appropriate and the instruments they play on songs on which they appear.

Several members of Dar's backing band also appeared on her earlier albums (mostly The Green World): Steuart Smith on a plethora of instruments, Rob Hyman on keyboards, Steve Holley on drums, and Stewart Lerman on guitars.

Finally, the lyrics to the title track, which was the first piece from this album that Dar started playing in concert and my personal favorite. It may, if Dar's concert comments ("this next is a song with a really long name") were any indication, at some point have been called "The Beauty Of The Rain Is How It Falls," but Dar apparently decided she'd better stick with five words. The music has a melancholy feel to it, but while the lyrics are more subdued than most of the rest of this album, the tone is still optimistic.

The liner notes for this song read: I love New York City because when I eavesdrop on people, they're often in the middle of some important discussion. Adversity is a given, but conversation renders poetry from it, hence "the beauty of the rain is how it falls." I think the lyrics are brilliant. I listened to this song very loud while I was typing them out and got all choked up around "You'll take her any way she sings." What is it about rain that makes good songwriters write good love songs?

And you know the light is fading all too soon
You're just two umbrellas one late afternoon
You don't know the next thing you will say
This is your favorite kind of day, it has no walls
The beauty of the rain
is how it falls, how it falls, how it falls.

And there's nothing wrong but there is something more
And sometimes you wonder what you love her for
She says you've known her deepest fears
Cause she's shown you a box of stained glass tears. It can't be all.
The truth about the rain
is how it falls, how it falls, how it falls.

But when she gave you more to find
You let her think she lost her mind
And that's all on you.
Feeling helpless if she asked for help
Or scared you'd have to change yourself

And you can't deny this room will keep you warm
You can look out of your window at the storm
But you watch the phone and hope it rings.
You'll take her any way she sings, or how she calls
The beauty of the rain
is how it falls, how it falls, how it falls.
How it falls, how it falls, how it falls.

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