Liverpool-born singer and songwriter Kathryn Williams channeled Sylvia Plath on her last solo album, 2015’s Hypoxia, and her latest record is another literature-based conceptual work. Invited by writer Laura Barnett to create a real-life album by the fictional heroine of her novel Greatest Hits, Williams produced these 16 songs with Magic Number Romeo Stodart behind the desk.
The process of writing and recording this imaginary ‘best of’ by the novel’s protagonist, Cass Wheeler, must have been liberating for Williams; there’s a relaxed and organic feel to the sultry soul of I Wrote You A Love Song, the atmospheric, sparse 4AD-isms of Lilies and the desperately dark piano ballad Edge Of The World.
In keeping with most actual best-of releases, Songs… is a wonderfully diverse record: highlight Road Of Shadows is a fuzz-drenched piece of guitar-pop that begins with feedback and organ stabs, before a cowbell propels the song to a stellar chorus: “Knocking down miles like dominos/Rolling past this town on this road of shadows,” sings Williams triumphantly. In contrast, third track Living Free is laidback folk with a bossa nova feel, recalling Kings Of Convenience, while the closing When Morning Comes finds Williams alone with her acoustic guitar as she spins out a tale of misery and redemption: “And when you came around to me, you opened something closed/And when you let the light in, love grows…”
Williams and Barnett wrote the lyrics for the songs together, with each track matching up with a chapter in the novel. Yet there’s no need to pick up Greatest Hits to enjoy this wonderfully diverse record, as Williams’ natural, never-showy voice and intelligent songwriting transcend the restrictions of the concept. A fine addition to her impressive catalogue.