Collaboration albums have proven to be career defining moments for some artists, whilst others barely make an impact. With the impressive magnitude of vocal talent Kathryn Williams and Dan Willson (AKA Withered Hand) possess, I was quite eager to dive into their new collaborative project, hoping desperately for a record that highlights the talents of both artists; I was more than satisfied with the results of ‘Willson Williams’.

When a singer can truly hold a note, it often escapes their mind that they need to allow breathing room for their collaborator to be able to showcase their respective talent, however that’s not the case on ‘Willson and Williams’. Both artists compliment each other marvellously and subsequently present us with divine harmonies, it’s almost as though the pair had been performing together regularly in another lifetime and have decided to get together for one last shindig, their souls inextricably linked.

The subject matter largely focuses on human experiences, most commonly examined are love and sorrow (unfortunately, you can rarely have one without the other). Whilst opening track ‘Arrow’ is gripping sonically, the track doesn’t initially give us much deeper insight into the message it’s aiming to convey. It’s not until ‘Grace’ and ‘R U 4 Real’ that we start to recognise the melancholy tone that oozes throughout the body of work. The melodies on the record’s second track are unexplainably familiar and simultaneously soul crushing, evoking a wave of nostalgia for its listener; if you’ve ever lost somebody you’ve loved, you’ll instantly empathise with the raw display of emotion that is packed into ‘Grace’.

The ever-prominent organ holding together the hook of ‘R U 4 Real’ is a fantastic creative touch and furthermore, the lyric “the room is full but it empties when I look at you” is a simple, but beautiful lyric that really stood out to me as a great example of the duo’s writing talent. The structure of the next track, ‘Our Best’, is quite interesting, instrumentally it stumbles into directions I didn’t quite expect and this helps elevate the dreamy vocals of both Williams and Withered Hand.

‘Shelf’ has a playful energy, however it doesn’t register as ‘single’ material to me and I can’t help but wonder why the track was chosen as one. Whilst it definitely allows both artists to display their immense talents, it doesn’t necessarily strike me as a memorable composition, unlike ‘Grace’. Nonetheless, it’s a sweet track and fits nicely on the record.

The album has some monumental moments and a whole range of poignant lyrics, ‘Sweetest Wine’ is somewhat devastating, ‘we always think we have more time’ is a line that admittedly left me with a lump in my throat. ‘Weekend’ is a genuinely fascinating song concept and questions the culture we have of partying at weekends, forcing ourselves to blend in with crowds and constantly emulating others to feel like part of a moment, a moment that will vanish faster than those we find ourselves trying to appease once the club lights flicker on.

‘Elvis’ has a warm, vintage essence and I appreciate the efforts the duo have made to help the track feel like somewhat of a time capsule, as though the song is a tribute to a period of music that has almost been forgotten by time. The concluding song ‘Big Nothing’ is a jarring composition, production-wise it sounds completely disjointed in comparison to the prior tracks; There is still a lingering familiarity in the duo’s harmonies though. The switch in production would’ve perhaps have been more welcomed a track or two earlier when the sound began to feel a little repetitive in nature, but ‘Big Nothing’ still serves as a worthy composition when listened to as a standalone piece, nonetheless.

Offering us a piece of their folksy, talented hearts, Kathryn Williams and Withered Hand have certainly crafted a beautiful record. Whilst there may be a couple of misses, the pair manage to compliment each other wonderfully through the project’s entirety – and when they get it right, the payoff is phenomenal. At times, it feels as if the two artists are, perhaps unintentionally, healing one another’s pain through their respective performances. Presenting warm, gentle melodies and at times heart-breaking lyricism, ‘Willson Williams’ has all of the key ingredients to become a standout record for the duo.

Kathryn Williams & Withered Hand: Willson Williams – Out 26th April 2024 (One Little Independent Records)

Williams & Withered Hand – Grace (