Purists may argue that a definitive recording of a classic song makes later versions superfluous. When an iconic version already exists, they say there is little point in artists recording their own version other than self-indulgence or commercial pressure. Nevertheless, artists seem to find the draw of recording their own renditions of their favourite songs too tempting to turn down. Indeed there was a time, when long-playing records still sold in substantial numbers, that albums of cover versions were released to cash in on the festive season or to punctuate a stubbornly fallow period in a singer-songwriter’s faltering career. Thankfully, neither motivation seems in evidence with Kathryn Williams and Anthony Kerr’s release of Resonator.
It is a mere eighteen months since Kathryn Williams’ previous album Hypoxia was released to critical acclaim by One Little Indian, her label since 2010’s The Quickening. Resonator is Williams’ twelfth album since coming to prominence in 2000, when her second album Little Black Numbers was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Since then she has ploughed her own furrow, eschewing gimmicks and trends while plotting a steady course within the seemingly ever widening genre of folk, favouring personal self-penned songs sung in her distinctive and quietly emotive style.
In this sense, Resonator is a significant diversion for Williams. Recorded over a six year period with acclaimed jazz musician Anthony Kerr, the album comprises ten jazz standards sung by Williams while accompanied on vibraphone by Kerr who, in an illustrious thirty year career, has collaborated with a veritable Who’s Who of jazz, including such luminaries as Claire Martin, George Shearing, Norma Winstone, Georgie Fame, Jacqui Dankworth and Charlie Watts.
Williams’ voice – languid and intimate, reminiscent of Astrud Gilberto or Julee Cruise – and Kerr’s soulful, understated accompaniment complement each other perfectly. The combination is atmospheric, seductive and nocturnal, like the soundtrack of a lost David Lynch film. Several tracks, including I’m A Fool To Want You and Like Someone In Love are pleasant although less memorable but when it works most successfully, as on My Funny Valentine, Every Time We Say Goodbye and Stormy Weather, the effect of their collaboration is irresistible. The result is refreshingly anachronistic and is amongst Williams’ best work. And there is no tinsel in sight.
Resonator will be released on Friday, November 18th 2016, by One Little Indian.