Kathryn Williams - The Quickening

It is ten years now since Kathryn Williams’s second album Little Black Numbers garnered a Mercury Prize nomination. For a select few, including the likes of Dizzy Rascal – touted as Britain’s answer to the likes of Jay-Z but in reality rather more like our answer to MC Hammer – Mercury recognition has been the springboard for commercial success.

For many others, it has constituted the fast track to obscurity.

And so it has been for one-time folk-pop prospect Williams, who has, for the past decade, plugged away quietly, releasing a sequence of pretty albums to criminally little attention.

Not that she seems ready to call it quits. And nor should she on the evidence of The Quickening, her eighth album and first for new label One Little Indian.

Though recorded in a measly four days with a self-imposed limit of three takes per song, it is a surprisingly polished affair.

Only the emotions are raw.

Imbued with a characteristic heart-on-sleeve honesty, it is, as one might expect of a fan of Nicks Drake and Cave, and avowed Leonard Cohen nut, for the most part as dark as night.

Piano, strings and voice all bear a heavy, unrelenting melancholy.

Wondrous opening track White Lines sets the tone, conveying evocatively the loneliness of late-night, after-show travel, albeit with a vigour that the remainder of the album lacks.

Elsewhere, Just Leave (subject matter self-explanatory) should come with a warning for those suffering from romantic anguish. But, if you can take it, you should.

Aside from the occasional lyrical lapse (Cream of the Crop never properly recovers from a pitifully laboured opening couplet), there is little not to like.

Release Date 22/02/2010 (One Little Indian)