thu 29/02/2024

Album: Kathryn Williams - Night Drives | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Kathryn Williams - Night Drives

Album: Kathryn Williams - Night Drives

The folk renaissance woman expands her sonic palette with mixed results

On the slow train to dawn...

Kathryn Williams’ creativity leaves most singers standing. She’s always up to something and it’s usually interesting. As well as multiple albums over two decades, including one themed around Sylvia Plath and another created with the poet Carol Anne Duffy, last year she had her first novel published, the ominous island-set tale, The Ormering Tides.

She’s done loads else too, her work often loosely in the folk form, heavily seasoned with the hurts of loving and living.  Her latest contains much of the latter, but its production is more opulent, electronic and experimental than her usual style.

While very much a Kathryn Williams album, Night Drives was inspired by collaboration, and, alongside Ed Harcourt on production, there are many contributors and co-writers, such as Magic Numbers’ Romeo Stodart, novelist Kirsty Logan and mystic folkie Ida Wenøe. From the queasy electronic bass’n’bagpipes explorations of opener “Human” to the twinkly, glitched and delightful ode to a morning’s waking ritual, “Starry Heavens”, this newfound sonic palette can often be engaging.

What’s at the heart of things, however, is the way Williams’ stunning, plaintive voice combines with her rich, literary way with words, the imagery and ideas she paints in the listener’s mind. The acoustic guitar-led “The Me For You” is a good case in point, asking “What if time could run twice?” and imagining “how we could live another life if we weren’t in this one for good.”

What lets the album down is that its delicacy and craft is sometimes weighed down by a funereal feel, an energy-sapping, mournful sloth. It’s an ongoing feel, often a rhythm section thing, that builds up, song-by-song. For me, it means this is one to cherrypick rather than play through. Ah, but there are such lovely things to cherrypick. To name but two, the string-laden, epic-cosmic, witty, tuneful meditation “Moon Karaoke” and the simple, catchy, strummed “Magnets”. There are more. And they are worth seeking.

Below: Watch the video for "Put the Needle on the Record" by Kathryn Williams


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