Born in Liverpool but now based in Newcastle, England, her work is characterised by delicate vocals and acoustic instruments.
Her influences are varied, including Nina Simone, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Simon and Garfunkel, and Velvet Underground. She has sung with Badmarsh & Shri album and worked with Twisted Nerve artist Pedro.
In this new musical world when we talk about an artist’s body of work we tend to think of a handful of records stretched out across of a handful of years, if we’re lucky. A changing industry and a focus on immediacy has done little to alter such notions, which makes Kathryn Williams something of an anomaly – releasing 11 full-length albums under her own name (and more with various side-projects) since her debut LP, Dog Leap Stairs, was released in 1999 via her own CAW Records label.
As impressive a stat as that might be, it does little to capture the true magic of Williams’ work; the enchanting craft that has grown and expanded as she’s moved from one project to the next, from the breakthrough success of her Mercury Prize nominated Little Black Numbers LP all the way to her Sylvia Plath tribute project and this year’s Greatest Hits collection – not a greatest hits at all, in fact, rather an imagined retrospective for a fictional artist and an inspired soundtrack to Laura Barnett’s new novel of the same name.
So how do we capture that magic? One way is to pick them apart, piece-by-piece, admiring the craft that goes in to them, that elegant vocal, the eloquent way with words. Another is to simply allow these records to be absorbed, one at a time, project by project, as music should be. From dusty Americana to playful jazz re-workings, and so much more besides, every record Williams puts her name to burns with a meticulousness and an honesty that casts a spell all of her own making, following in the shadow of the listener for days at a time, for years to come.
While her best-known work is characterised by rich and honest songwriting, inspired by the greats – from Nick Drake to Joni Mitchell and beyond – Williams has continually been able to evolve as an artist because she’s always looked outside of such genre boundaries. “The things that influence you aren’t necessarily going to come out in obvious ways, unless you’re trying to copy,” she said in a 2007 interview. “I don’t sound like Lou Reed or Tom Waits. But when I listen to them, I learn.”
Williams’ album Songs From The Novel Greatest Hits is another non-conventional piece of work from an artist that continues to listen and learn from the greats while, at the same time, undoubtedly becoming one herself; approaching her 20th anniversary fiery spirit and a sense of adventure that has never once wilted.
Support is by Northallerton based singer George Boomsma
Date of event:26th October 2019