independent

Friday 25 April 2014

REVIEW: Kathryn Williams Crown Electric (One Little Indian)

Cracking Kath’s been well worth the wait

LIKE a bespoke craftsperson, Kathryn Williams creates her albums with great attention to detail. Nothing is haphazard.

But it's her talent that has made her such a reliable bet since she began releasing music in 1999.

Over a decade ago, Britain sat up and noticed. Williams found herself nominated for a Mercury prize for Little Black Numbers. She survived comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny.

Not that she ever sounded like these other artists. “It's like giving someone directions towards where I am,” she reasoned about those comparisons.

This 13-track collection, released next week, is Williams' 10th studio album. And, four years in the making, produced by Niall MacColl, it's a gem.

Williams knew she was onto something special when she came across the title, which is the name of the power company a teenage Elvis Presley worked for as a truck driver. “It has strength to it,” she says. “It's steadfast.”

Gave it Away is a meditation inspired by the possibility of what Elvis might have missed had he stayed in the day job. “I didn't lose love,” she sings. “I gave it away.”

There's a sense from these songs that each one is a statement of intent, a declaration of defiance or a hymn of personal reassurance.

“You can make the darkness light,” she sings on Darkness Light, with Spector-ish Heritage Orchestra adding to the melodic swoop of the Fabs at their most optimistic. It's one of three tracks that Ed Harcourt plays piano on. Monday Morning has a yearning that John Lennon was master of, as Luke Flowers adds a touch of Ringo with his beat.

Each lyric sounds like it was written in the wee small hours. The recent single Heart Shaped Stone has a cinematic quality that evokes the timeless writing of Jimmy Webb. The muted brass on Out Of Time adds a late-night Carpenters-style lounge feel to this contemplative ballad.

Like all great songwriters, Williams sings through her fears.

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