What does it sound like?:
So I better start by a declaration of interest in that I contributed material for the bonus discs that accompany 10 of Kathryn’s albums from 1999-2015 that make up this box set. I attended his first London show and bought the sound guy a pint in exchange for a copy of the set from the board. I gave Kathryn a copy when she started putting together this career spanning collection. Not getting remuneration for it however so apart from being a fan of some 20 years standing I have nowt to declare – but you can probably guess I’m not gonna hate it.
Kathryn’s never been pigeonholed and her career is all the more interesting for that. Her first album cost £80 to make, her 2nd was Mercury nominated, she’s worked with Ed Harcourt, John Martyn, Chris Difford & Thea Gilmore, shared stages with the Watersons, The Thompsons, June Tabor & Frank Sidebottom and put out 14 albums to date. All these influences be it Nick Drake, Nirvana, Ivor Cutler, Pavement, Leonard Cohen or The Roches colour her work. Its not folk – although there is softly sung acoustic material, its not pop – although there are loops, beats and percussive rhythms. What it is though is intensely personal, direct and honest songwriting sung in a way that draws your attention and cuts to the very heart of the matter.
Its an impossibility to review the whole thing so let me give you a couple of examples that you can check out on YouTube or whatever and if you appreciate what I am saying and it grabs you then this may be the best 60 quid you ever spend.
We Dug A Hole from ‘Little Black Numbers’, her Mercury nominated 2nd album begins with an almost whispered vocal and lightly plucked strings and it slowly builds to a swirling coda with the mantra ‘warmer than wood, old and safe’ swamped by a joyful cacophony including barking and laughter.
Beating Heart from ‘Hypoxia’ – her album based on characters from Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’ that grew out of a commission by new Writing North. Its the eye of the hurricane is a swirling album of extreme emotions, confusion, anger and hurt. Its about the fragility of the human mind but the strength of the human spirit to endure despite itself. The final ‘I can, I can’ which flips into ‘Can I? Can I?’ gets me every damn time
Sequins From ‘Crown Electric’ – an amusing heartfelt song about death and the afterlife, about aging and being happy with what we are given. Brilliant production and chiming piano from Ed Harcourt, swooping strings and one of Kathryn’s best vocals and lyrics ‘if I walk the afterlife with no makeup on I’ll be frightening the angels for good’ is sung with an audible grin.
Grey Goes from ‘Two’ her collaboration with Neill MacColl is a spiky, woozy affair with abstract lyrics and there is a live take on the box that goes out there and then some.
Aside from the albums proper there is a whole extra CD of covers to go with her ‘Relations’ covers LP – a rare example of the genre that is actually successful. Home demos and live cuts a plenty as well as many unreleased songs that are not mere doodles but complete studio versions of tracks equal to those that made it onto the albums. Rather than simply collect all the material that is out there and dump it on the CDs, Kathryn is trying to tell a story of her as an artist as well as how the albums were made.
So basically, its a yes from me.
What does it all *mean*?
This is a very personal, tactile and beautifully presented collection. Containing 20 CDs, two books (one of lyrics, the other an illustrated commentary on the albums, her career and songs) wrapped in Kathryn’s own designed artwork and pictures – its a labour of love.
Goes well with…
The rest of your life.
Newbie or fan – you get an almighty bang for your buck
9th August 2019
Might suit people who like…
Folk, pop, jazz, a walk on the wild side, a window into your soul