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FAME Review: Kathryn Williams - The Quickening
Kathryn Williams - The Quickening

The Quickening

Kathryn Williams

Available from One Little Indian web store.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Kathryn Williams has been picking up critical praise for her quiet and velvety voice within a mellifluous approach to folk and folk rock—this from no less venues than Q Magazine, The Guardian, and so on. There's plenty of reason for the allusions to Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, and the others, but there's just as much justification in harking back to Bruce Cockburn's early Lord of the Starfields materials, pensive versions of Pentangle and similar English bands of the 70s (Steeleye Span, Fotheringay, etc.), maybe even faint allusions to the ghostly ethereality of Clannad subordinated to Brit/American transplantations in latterday Village Vanguard experiments drawing latent modernist possibilities to the surface.

The backing band is likewise inclined to hazy diaphanous musicianship, laid very much in the fashion Robert Kirby made so pastorally luminous in Drake's Bryter Layter (save that Kirby's ministrations were more overtly orchestral), subtly glowing with filigreed abstract gestures and a spaciousness that allows each composition to e, rather sensually in more than one cut, especially Wanting and Waiting. The array of instruments is surprising—hurdy gurdy, marimba, bandura, cajon, and much much more—all artfully, almost anonymously, placed so as to be cohorts in Williams' wistful seductions painting the listener into countrysides and Bohemian canvases.

Of note is the inclusion of Neil MacColl, son of Ewan and Peggy Seeger, who wields a number of instruments and sings, but it's a tribute to the arranging skills of the production team of Williams and Kate St. John (Dream Academy / Channel Light Vessel / Roger Eno), working in a rather unique hands-on/hands-off atmosphere, that neither he nor anyone separates out but melds languidly into the musky background. Part of what becomes so tantalizing is the feel of organic wholeness, of well-defined sleepy atmospheres fallen into, of the aching heart enfolding its own life without particularizing. Over it all, though, Kathryn Williams re-defines 'gentle' while losing nothing in the process, reminding us that a whisper can be as affective as thunder…and a lot more pleasant, even as a gathering tear escapes: Room at the Top, the epicenter of the CD, is one of the most powerfully understated revelations of the true sources of love I've ever heard and will explain precisely what I mean by that.

Track List:

  • 50 White Lines
  • Just a Feeling
  • Winter is Sharp
  • Wanting and Waiting
  • Black Oil
  • Just Leave
  • Smoke
  • Cream of the Crop
  • There are Keys
  • Noble Guesses
  • Little Lesson
  • Up North
All songs written by Kathryn Williams except 50 White Lines and Cream of the Crop (Williams / Scott),
Noble Guesses (Williams / Clay), and Little Lesson (Williams / Clay / Edwards).

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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