Dar Williams has always been over the top in her earnestness, like that granola chick in high school who wanted to live in a tree and wept for abandoned kittens. In the past, that wide-eyed quality was tempered by her songs' earthy, folk-based arrangements and her self-deprecating humour. Sadly, My Better Self is all about the sad kitties. Williams has lots to worry about - her country's warmongering advances, human fallibility and a lost friend. Even the ripe-for-playful-jabs Teen For God, which faces off against evangelical hypocrisy at Bible camp, is cringingly meek. The godawful production, a wishy-washy AM-radio mess, makes matters worse. It says a lot that there's an echoey, reverent cover of Comfortably Numb (with Ani DiFranco) here. It says even more that it's the disc's best track.
Dar Williams plays the Church of the Redeemer Wednesday (December 7).