One of the premier latter-day folkies, Dar Williams meets the 21st century head-on with rapier dissections of society's foibles and fractures, juxtaposed with introspective musings. Her musical contexts shift from trad folk through sharply melodic pop-folk variations to stuff on the edge of the folk-rock continuum. Williams is a superior storyteller, clearly reflecting key influences Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, often invoking sly humor whose barbs are uncomfortably sharp, such as the dysfunctional family gathering depicted in "The Christians and the Pagans." After seven albums spread over 17 years, Williams just issued a unique two-disc retrospective, Many Great Companions. One disc collects 20 fan favorites. The other sports a dozen tunes—including six overlaps—in new, stripped-down arrangements featuring only acoustic guitars and vocals. Produced by the Jayhawks' Gary Louris, who joins Williams on many tracks, the new recordings both showcase the probing, analytical nature of Williams's songcraft in addition to placing the songs firmly in the folk canon. Sitting in besides Louris are Sara and Sean Watkins, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Larkin, and the vocal trio Motherlode. At the Guthrie, Williams will be accompanied by keyboardist Bryn Roberts.
Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Oct. 29. Continues through Oct. 30, 2010