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The Big Takeover Issue #94
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Kathryn Williams – The Quickening (One Little Indian)

16 July 2010

British singer/songwriter Kathryn Williams‘ work reflects her heritage, but without the obvious Celtic or similar folk overtones. There’s simply something distinctly English about her songs and performances, a cultural thread that runs through The Quickening like a creek through a lush forest. Her intimate, hushed soprano insinuates itself into the sedate arrangements, sharing tea with acoustic guitars, marimbas and occasional percussion bits with the comfort of good times with old friends. To call songs like “Cream of the Crop,” “Winter is Sharp” and the bass-driven “Little Lessons” beautiful is less a superlative than just a simple description; even harsher sentiments like “Black Oil” (an environmental warning that’s particularly topical at the moment) and “Just Leave” couch their darkness in warm coats. She’s also one of the few songwriters today who knows how to use the sound of language itself, from the repetition of phrases in “50 White Lines” to the percussive “click clacks” of “There Are Keys.” Williams’ tools aren’t unique, but she uses them in ways distinctive to her own vision.