Wednesday, April 09, 2008

a real red-letter day (and in praise of a truly excellent singer)

Current work: new outlines/nonfiction
Listening to: Kathryn Williams and Neill MacColl

Really fab day yesterday. Nice email from lovely ed. French edition of The Doctor’s Royal Love Child arrived in the post. Excellent guitar lesson – ignored the fact I didn’t do any of my homework over the holidays and we had a lesson deconstructing Neil Young (i.e. start off with the basic chord, add in the melody line, then work up the accompaniment – my homework is ‘Hey Hey My My’, which has such a lovely riff). Kids had a good day at school. Madam had a great swimming lesson. Had a lovely (and very long) chat with my ed about the next books, so I know what I’m doing now for the next year. Discovered that people are saying very nice things on eHarlequin about Where the Heart Is (which is a book very, very close to my heart).

And the really big highlight of the day? I saw Kathryn Williams and Neill MacColl at the Arts Centre in Norwich. Superb. Especially as this time the audience had chairs :o) (Clearly I am getting old… I used not to mind standing for 2 hours, but now I do. Probably because I spend too much time at my desk.) Anyway. I had a seat right at the front, in the middle. I was about six feet away from Neill and maybe eight from Kathryn (that’s tops – they really were that close).

Their support was Marit Bergman – a Swede who lives in New York, is very funny and plays the piano beautifully. If you like singer-songwriters (which I do – Joni Mitchell, Carol King, etc etc) then give her a listen. (I bought her album last night but haven’t played it yet. I Will Always Be Your Soldier is on Youtube (but bear in mind what I heard last night was this voice and a stripped-down piano accompaniment, so it was slightly different!).

And then it was Kathryn and Neill.

It was just fabulous.

They played most of the songs from the new album (and even the one track I’m not so keen on – the Tom Waits track – was better live). The guitar-playing was fabulous (and I was in the perfect place to watch how he did it – smooth, flawless, and the chromaharp was pretty good too). The banter between Kathryn and Neill had the audience in stitches. And the singing?

Just perfect. (Here's Come With Me Darling on YouTube - it's just lovely, and Neill's harmonies are gorgeous. Listen to it, then go and buy the album. It's seriously good.)

I first heard Kathryn Williams singing ‘Saturday Sun’ at the Barbican tribute to Nick Drake – just after she’d released her very first album. I loved her voice and went straight out to buy her album, the next day. Since then, I’ve bought every single one of her records on the day of release, and I’ve never been disappointed. Mojo once described her as ‘Melancholy you can lick like Haagen Dasz’. She has a very breathy, sweet voice – I’ve seen it described elsewhere as gossamer. Except her songs tell stories, and her words are very far from sugary, so there’ s this wonderful juxtaposition between her voice and what she’s actually singing. She also did one of my favourite from her backlist – ‘Little Black Numbers’ from the album ‘Old Low Light’. The sound system’s set-up means that she can sing one part of the harmony, then layer on two more, and the three are still going nicely while she sings over the top. Stunning.

It’s hard to pick a favourite track because they were all good, but I think last night had to be ‘Grey Goes’ (she did the same thing with the harmony – and there’s something hypnotic about the riff).

And then there was the encore. The song I so hoped she’d do (as she did last time I saw her and reduced me to tears because it was so hauntingly beautiful).

Now, if you like the Leonard Cohen track ‘Hallelejuah’… let me say now, just go and buy Kathryn’s cover album, ‘Relations’, immediately. Because her version is without doubt the best version I’ve ever heard. (And I speak as someone who’s heard probably a dozen singers’ versions. And I include Leonard Cohen’s original here, too.) Her voice will just blow you away. Singing with real heart. (It's also on Youtube - there's an interview first and then the song starts around the 3 minutes mark.)

So. Fabulous night. And today I feel ready to take on the world. Thank you, Kathryn and Neill.


Melissa Marsh said...

Nothing like a good night out with great singing to give your spirits a boost! :-)

Kate Hardy said...

Melissa - absolutely! :o)