"The Quickening" presumably refers to the increased speed & spontaneity with which Kathryn Williams recorded the songs for her eighth album - in four days, live, with a maximum of three takes and without the musicians having heard the melodies before. It's also a match for her contemplative lyrics.
I know people get annoyed if you pay too much attention to the lyrics, but hers are always reliably interesting; unlike so many female singer-songwriters or performers dominating the airwaves these days (who seem to overcompensate for a lack of authentic individuality with forced eccentricity), KW's feel natural and unpretentious. There are some great one-liners: "Watch you in my lunchtime / like a silent matinee show" or "The nerves down my arms hit like sparks". She loves similes!
The first track - 50 White Lines - is fantastic, with its jaunty rhythm and mechanical counting of the recorded voice. Winter is Sharp is also more quickly paced than the others (I never understood why Guardian journalists complain about her music being too one-paced and maudlin - it's not!). Kate St John, who was musical director for the phenomenal Nick Drake tribute concerts in January this year, produced the album with KW and plays accordion and hurdy gurdy. Neill MacColl, who was a session musician at the same shows and collaborated with KW on the last album, contributes banjo (which sounds great!), mandolin, and guitar playing.
The doll's house on the cover and the miniature figures which inhabit the pictures inside reflect a love of the small world, of detail & domesticity that you can hear in her music, too. The album hasn't quite managed to replace Little Black Numbers, Over Fly Over or Old Low Light in my affections yet, and there are two tracks which I couldn't warm to as much as the others (Little Lesson, Up North).
She's playing London's Purcell Room on 6 March and before that Manchester, Glasgow, and Newcastle.
Standouts (IMHO): 50 White Lines, Wanting and Waiting, Noble Guesses, Just Leave
One of Britain's finest singer/songwriters, Kathryn Williams wholly deserves the airtime that this album has enjoyed on national radio in the weeks leading up to its official launch. If you are new to her music, please ignore the Folk-Rock tag that the official review classes her as; that is a misnoma and her music is much more than that. She writes wonderfully crafted songs about contemporary issues and sings them beautifully. If you are not new to her music, you will not be disappointed with this album. In my humble opinion, I regard her music as highly as Richard Hawley.
This latest offering from Kathryn Williams is an absolute joy to listen to. I was blown away when I first heard it and it's now one of my favourites on my ipod. Most favourite tacks are the wonderful 50 White Lines, Just A Feeling, Wanting and Waiting and Little Lesson. Since buying this, I am now in the process of buying all Kathryn's other albums and I'm sure I won't be disappointed with any of them as she has such a beautiful voice and her songwriting abilities put her up with the "cream of the crop".