By Jim Sullivan
---- — Pop folk singer-songwriter Dar Williams is making her return to Newburyport tomorrow night and she’s bringing some “gods” with her.
The Wesleyan graduate sold out the intimate City Hall auditorium back in 2009 and couldn’t be happier to be coming back to the city.
“The day that I spent there was very magical,” Williams says of her visit to the North Shore four years ago. “There’s a lot of history there. I went to the Peabody-Essex Museum, and then made my way up to Newburyport, and it’s just kind of what every touring artist hopes traveling would be.”
Appearing with Williams will be Ipswich native Jake Armerding, who has been turning heads as he builds a reputation in Boston acoustic music scene.
A free spirit all her life, Williams found her way to Massachusetts from her native New York in the early 1990s while working as a stage manager for the Opera Company of Boston. But music was calling to her, and she recorded her first album, “I Have No History” in 1990.
Another album followed in 1991 and Williams began opening for folk legend, Joan Baez who would pay her the ultimate compliment when she recorded the duet, “You’re Aging Well” with her in 1993.
“It was a lifetime experience but it was also a turning point,” Williams says of working with Baez. “She chose to bring me out on the road with her and introduce me to the world. And there are people who still come to my shows, 20 years later, who say that they were there when I was first starting with Joan. She is a generous spirit.”
Williams has not looked back since as she’s spent a career touring with the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Griffin, Ani DiFranco, The Nields, Shawn Colvin, Girlyman, and Catie Curtis. She is now celebrating her 18th release, “In the Time of Gods,” the inspiration for which came while Williams was out for a drive.
Alone on a long stretch of road, surrounded by nature, a thought jumped in her head — she wanted to write a biker song.
“My second thought was, ‘I want to write an epic biker song,’” Williams said in a statement. “The Greek messenger of the dead is named Hermes, and I want to write about him, the god of travelers and thieves. I had this picture of Hermes starting to take a silver-haired woman down to her death, as she’s asked him to do, and instead he seduces her, saying ‘I love people like you who are experienced and worldly.’ And then I thought, why don’t I really freak out my record company and make a whole album about Greek mythology? So I decided to look at each of the gods of the Parthenon and see if their stories sprang to life for me or not.”
They not only sprang to life for Williams, but gave her numerous lyrical roads to travel.
“At the end of the day, it’s really not so much about Greek mythology as it is about power,” Williams said. “Power and folly, betrayal and redemption. That sense of being played with, you know, like a fly being shaken up in a cup by a child, and what you do with that. How do you wake up and still stand for civilization? And all of the things that push against it and dismantle it? It’s more about that than about Greek mythology. It’s just that that was such a great lens for looking at human power. And, at the end of the day, the Greeks still built all those great buildings.”
IF YOU GO WHAT: Dar Williams with Jake Armerding WHEN: Tomorrow, 8 p.m. WHERE: Newburyport City Hall auditorium, 60 Pleasant St., Newburyport. TICKETS: $35, go online to www.HeptunesConcerts.com.