This year is turning out to be quite a busy one for Dar Williams. She recently reunited with fellow singer-songwriters Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky to reform alt-folkie supergroup Cry Cry Cry after nearly two decades. September also saw the Mount Kisco, N.Y., native release her new book, “What I Found in a Thousand Towns.”
She’ll discuss and read from the book during her Nov. 9 solo concert at The Mill in Iowa City.
Originally formed back in 1998, Cry Cry Cry yielded a single self-titled album of mostly covers steeped in harmonies that evolved out of sound checks that Shindell and Williams were doing while touring together as solo artists in the mid-1990s. As such, the album “Cry Cry Cry,” with its interpretations of songs by the likes of R.E.M., Greg Brown, Robert Earl Keen and Ron Sexsmith, earned the group a fervent following that’s been clamoring for a reunion. That notion also has been on the minds of the three musicians involved.
“We all were thinking about it for a long time on our own. Then Lucy (Kaplansky) wrote and said we had an offer to play at (the Clearwater Folk) festival if we wanted to reunite. We were all hiding these songs in our back pockets that we had saved for a possible reunion, so it was a very instant ‘yes,’” Williams said in a recent phone interview.
“What we want to do is try a couple of songs (live) and see how they do. We’d like to work on a couple of songs because you can’t really see how they are until they’re living out in the audience a bit,” she said. “If it hits the wall and falls, people will understand. But it might hit the wall and turn into fireworks.”
Williams is thrilled to be sharing stages again with Kaplansky and Shindell, adding this chapter to a career that dates back to the late 1980s and includes some 15 full-length albums and EPs over which time Williams has established herself as one of the finest singer-songwriters on the folk-centric music scene.
It’s this life as a working musician, both solo and in Cry Cry Cry, that’s allowed her to spend a good part of the past two decades on the road. That’s given her a catbird seat to observe how people live and interact in the different places she’s played in all over the country. This small-town dynamic has always fascinated Williams, and as an academic who taught for a number of years at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., she began researching societal commonalities that she kept seeing crop up — a process that led to her new book.
"I watched towns come into some kind of local prosperity over the last 20 years and I got interested in what towns were doing that helped them either find their center or souls or helped them function in a resilient way,” she said.
Williams’ passion for this subject runs deep, and many of her dates this fall, including her Iowa City stop, will featuring readings from her book, as well as a musical performance. She plans to release another studio album in 2018.