Kathryn Williams

Relations

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Originally released during her major-label stint and given a reissue some years later after she found her independent feet all the more strongly, Relations is that sometimes revelatory, sometimes time-killing impulse brought to life -- the covers album, paying homage to past inspirations old and young. Some of the choices seem obvious more by default and time due to shifting contexts -- admittedly Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" had already seemed plenty familiar again thanks to Jeff Buckley's cover at the time of the first release of Relations, but in 2010 one almost wants to beg for any other Cohen song just for a bit of contrast, however much her version, recorded live, ends on a sharp, strong note. Similarly, "All Apologies" seems like an almost too pat choice of Nirvana cover, not helped by a high-pitched string part that spills into the melodramatic from the start. Williams' takes are at the least enjoyable in a sweetly formal way, though, leaving the more unexpected choices, at least in song if not in composer, to take the lion's share of the praise. Having Neil Young's After the Gold Rush represented by "Birds" is a nice touch, Williams giving it a beautiful performance slightly touched by string parts, while picking the late Pavement single "Spit on a Stranger" is both an inspired touch and also results in a lovely remake all around. Versions of "Thirteen" by Big Star and the Velvet Underground's "Candy Says" successfully showcase Williams' particular ear for studio-shaped folk very well in turn -- the latter, in a fun touch, is actually more energetic than the original, peppier without losing its overall fragility. Perhaps the most inspired touch comes courtesy of Ivor Cutler's "Beautiful Cosmos," with the Scottish artist's sharp wit given a winning makeover.

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