REVIEW: Kathryn Williams’ personal journey contemplative, intimate

Kathryn Williams’ latest release ‘The Quickening’ is a highly agreeable personal journey shared by the artist that fits like a favorite shirt and leaves the listener with a feeling of having spent a season contemplating some of her most intimate thoughts and experiences.  And being a better person for it.

Williams embarks on her current musical trip with “50 White Lines”, a rhythmic sing-along about tooling down the highway with the wind in her hair and troubles at her back while her travel partner carefully counts off the painted white dividing stripes to pass the time, offering possibly the album’s most obvious choice for a single.  That rhythm-of-the-road theme carries over to “Just a Feeling”, which leaves you with just that thanks to a cool, easy tempo and what sounds like possibly a 12-string guitar (I’m working off a demo copy with few liner notes) being deftly picked atop the casual cadence.

The album also features some fairly diverse and interesting instrumentation, beginning with the digital pulsations and banjo (or maybe mandolin) that weave through “Winter is Sharp”, a title whose truth in reinforced by the minor chords and plaintive duet vocals that waft lazily through the song.  Having grown up in northern country myself I can appreciate the dreary melancholy that sharp, cold winter can bring.  Spring comes eventually in this season Williams has woven, but first another winter song and the most haunting on the album, “Wanting and Waiting”, the most personally revealing and tender moment on the record.  Metal guitar strings give off a harsh vibe as Williams gets a little metaphysical observing “time is an expensive thing” in emotionally evocative fashion.

Williams wearily croons the dreaded line that invariably ends every failed relationship on “Just Leave”.  Was it neglect, or betrayal, or maybe just the oppressive weight of darkest winter gloom?  And can we know, or does it matter?  The song could have done without the spacey digital effects, but the raw emotion that winds this one down is both convincing and painfully familiar.

“Smoke” reinforces an impression that Williams takes her personal relationships very seriously, although she also has the range to camp it up a bit with the lounge-like “Cream of the Crop” complete with jazz piano and a touch of Monroe vamping.

Not every track enhances the mood or advances the continuity of the album, with “Black Oil”, “Little Lessons” and “Noble Guesses” wandering into rather abstract emotional territory, but in total still managing to expose a glimpse of Williams’ insightful and poetic lyrical style.

Like I said, these songs fit together like a well-worn and comforting shirt, or given the slightly cool mood perhaps a warm denim jacket.  Either way this record is made to be listened to by couples, or at least by those who still yearn for heartfelt passion.  Enjoy.

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