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Music Review: Kathryn Williams & Neill MacColl – Two

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Instincts can be hard to understand. Quite why my dog Dylan does half the stuff he does is beyond my comprehension and probably his as well. However, when instinct takes over between talented musicians they can develop an immediate understanding, a creative bond, and a shared musical path. The results can be simply magical.

With hardly a word exchanged they sit down and collaborate to produce music that totally compliments each other. Individuals fuse together to become very connected performers. In this case such a meeting has produced Two, the album. The two in question are Kathryn Williams and Neill MacColl.

Kathryn, nominated for a Mercury Prize in 2000, is one of the U.K.’s most respected singer, songwriters. She possesses a voice smoother than silk and an ability to write songs that will implant themselves deep inside your mind. Through her music the world can suddenly look a warmer place.

Guitarist and vocalist Neill MacColl is the son of Ewan, the guy who wrote “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” for his mother Peggy Seegar. When Neill met Kathryn at the Daughters Of Albion concert, part of BBC’s Folk Britannia series, something magical occurred.

Kathryn explains on their joint website, "we just clicked, we didn't need to say anything on stage, we could read where the other was going’. She adds, ‘within a few hours of first saying 'hello' to each other, we were saying 'yeah, let’s get together and make a record', which was both strange and kind of liberating."
The music came instinctively from them and in a mere six days they had written the backbone to the album Two. "We locked ourselves in a room for a few days and the songs just poured out of us," says Kathryn, "the way we write and play together is like we’re both steering the same ship, in the most natural and instinctive way."

They then brought in Phill Brown, who has worked with The Rolling Stones, Brian Eno, and the late John Martyn, to produce the album. Using his wealth of experience he lets the music speak for itself. He allows the intimacy of the atmosphere to develop to such a degree it is as though it has been written and is being performed just for the listener.

Two is a wonderful achievement by musicians and producer alike. It radiates a warm and colourful glow, a candlelit atmosphere of heart warming intimacy. It is an album that will lift your spirits from the dampest of days, calm you down after a day of madness, and provide melancholic reflection amid the turmoil of life. Just listen to the words of “Armchair” and you will see exactly what I am trying to describe.

Kathryn’s vocals are smoothness personified whilst Neill provides an excellent counter balance of harmony set above gentle acoustic guitars. The captivating vibe is created within the first few bars of the album opener “6 am Corner” and continues effortlessly throughout.

Neill takes the lead on “Innocent When You Dream” with Kathryn this time supplying the harmony. Blended together perfectly they illustrate the power of that word instinct again. “Come With Me” is an early highlight, near perfect in every sense. It is the first well chosen single from the album.

“Before It Goes” is of the same, by now cosily familiar, quality.  “Blue Fields” eases its way into the album sounding uncannily like a lost Nick Drake gem. “Frome” is impossibly delicate. “Grey Goes” taps into your mind moving gently towards the delightful “Weather Forever”.

“Shoulders” simply caresses the senses. The words of “Armchair” entice, while “Rolling Down” flows by effortlessly. “All” briefly reassures, before “Holes In Your Life” closes an album that will leave you feeling refreshed and revived.

This was clearly a partnership that was meant to be. If you enjoy this album then hold onto the fact that the music simply ‘poured from’ Kathryn and Neill. Theirs is a natural gift, a sign of the instinctive understanding created by this meeting of minds and a warming display of intertwined talent. All of this will hopefully mean that there will be more soon.

For more information and that all important listen please visit their official website.

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