When she titled her eighth and latest album In the Time of Gods, singer and songwriter Dar Williams wasn’t just looking for something that sounded lofty. On the contrary, Williams has lately been fascinated with Greek mythology and its gods and goddesses—Zeus, Hermes, Athena and their compatriots, whose tales she considers a prism through which to see the discord afflicting humanity today. If the connection to mythology seems a stretch, it simply reflects the world as Williams sees it. “My husband and I are TV addicts,” she says. “But we see nothing but a lot of talking heads spewing a lot of blah, blah, blah. I believe that we are once again living in the time of the gods, which gives us all opportunity to step up and be a hero.”
The album’s narrative boasts an ambitiously broad canvas, which Williams acknowledges by occasionally chuckling at her own elaborate explanations. “It involves power,” she says. “There’s a lot of noise and pontificating going on in the world lately. These days there’s this moral ambiguity that makes it hard to find clarity. I’m expressing that through these ancient heroes I embraced as a child.”
Produced by Kevin Killen (U2, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello), the album is built around Williams’ familiar folk stylings and riveting melodies. Its depth reflects her rich background—as a theater and religion major at Wesleyan University she was initially interested in activism and ecology, causes she still champions. She toyed with the idea of becoming an author, and in 1998 co-authored The Tofu Tollbooth, a guide to finding vegetarian fare away from home. “When I went to the merch booth after a show and noticed I had sold 10 CDs and only one book, it dawned on me that music was probably the right way to go,” she recalls with a laugh.
Clearly Williams chose the correct path. It’s telling that she’s been with the same label, Razor & Tie, since the company reissued her independent debut, The Honesty Room, in the ’90s. “I was a little concerned about their reaction to this album,” admits the singer, who makes her home in New York’s Hudson Valley. “The concept isn’t all that accessible. Actually, they asked me to keep it secret. But of course I can’t keep a secret for more than 30 seconds.”