The 14 songs that chose her are quite an eclectic bunch, not always what you would expect from an angst-ridden cynic. Highlights include Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," with a mournful cello behind Williams's crisp sweet melancholy vocal as it rises in passion. This is an iconic song, and Williams's cover is masterful.
Her take on the bluesy Mae West track "A Guy What Takes His Time" is magic. There is a suggestive wink in her voice every bit as sexy as the brash and brassy original. Tim Hardin's "How Can We Hang On to a Dream" is an understated lover's lament. Simple, understated production is also the hallmark of her cover of the Bee Gees song "I Started A Joke." This is an especially interesting contrast to the big orchestrations characteristic of the Gibbs in their glory.
Indeed, these clean simple arrangements are the ideal accompaniment for the crystal purity of Williams's vocals. Whether it’s the catchy melody of The Byrds classic "The Ballad of Easy Rider" and Nico's "These Days" or the pounding emphasis of Nirvana's "All Apologies," she has a knack for making the song her own. There are covers of Neil Young, Big Star, Lee Hazelwood, Python Lee Jackson and The Velvet Underground as well, all with that low key approach that defines her music. You can see what I mean by eclectic, and really, there isn't a dud in the bunch.
There is some question about whether an artist capable of writing songs like those on The Quickening should be spending one's time covering the songs of other artists. Why not leave that to the singers who can't write their own material? This is not an unreasonable position.
On the other hand, there is no end to the great singer/songwriters who have taken time out to cover the work of others and come up with magical recordings. Land that lies fallow for awhile, renews itself, and comes back is more productive than land that is constantly planted. Besides, who is there to say that you can't do both? Kathryn Williams can do both, and she can do them well. Here's hoping she keeps doing so.