Kathryn Williams may not be a name you are overly familiar with but once heard, she is rarely forgotten. With a string of albums to her name, including 'Relations', a wondrous covers record and 'Little Black Numbers' which was nominated for the Mercury award, there's a lot for her latest album 'Leave to remain' to live up to, but thankfully its business as usual.
From the very first line of opener 'Blue onto you', its clear that Williams vocals remain as beautiful and angelic as ever, her lilting melodies wrapping around the listener like a security blanket, never rushing or sounding pained. The vocals really do take centre stage here as the musical accompaniment remains sparse and delicate, creating a dreamy landscape at times. There is an element to Williams's music that is forever background music, the soft and beautiful melodies working well to fill the air whilst you occupy yourself with other things, but after repeated listens, things start to appear and jump out at the listener.
'Hollow' was a recent single and is bigger than many of the other tracks with its string arrangement so is an ideal place to start for new listeners. It can be crass at times to pigeonhole artists but it's usually done to help new listeners make comparisons and there are Nick Drake overtones on this tracking, with the swooping backing and the mournful and melancholic feel of the song. Don't be fooled into thinking it's a downbeat song, the sense of hope and expectation that carries in Williams vocals are enough to offset any feeling of sorrow.
Theres a lot of finger picked guitar played by Williams but for an album where there is a lot of quiet, the vast array of supporting instruments and players can be bewildering and it prevents the album from becoming samey or predictable. However, there is a pace throughout the record that the listener can sink into and not bother getting out of. Depending on your mood, this can be a good or a bad thing.
At certain times, the album drags a bit and it needs more of a spark of invention to truly come to life and demand it be listened to. That's only one side of the album though and there is a lot to take from it. The quality of the playing and the vocals, it's hard not to continually praise Williams's vocals, shines from the each of the tracks and on the whole it's a pleasing and pleasant experience.