British folk singer/songwriter Kathryn Williams rose from relative obscurity in 2000 when her self-released album Little Black Numbers was nominated for a Mercury Prize. A thoughtful and poetic songwriter with a delicate voice, Williams' newfound stature earned her a major-label stint in the front half of the decade after which she reclaimed her independence and, in addition to releasing her own albums, embarked on a series of interesting collaborations including 2008's Two with Neill MacColl and a 2010 children's album with punk musician Anna Spencer under the name the Crayonettes. She continued to enjoy critical acclaim and a modicum of more widespread success in the 2010s, signing with One Little Indian and releasing albums like 2013's Crown Electric and 2015's ambitious Hypoxia, which was based on Syvia Plath's The Bell Jar. She later collaborated with author Laura Barnett on a companion album to the latter's 2017 novel, Greatest Hits.
Williams began her career in 1999 with the release of Dog Leap Stairs, a beguiling set of low-key folk songs that drew comparisons to the hushed musings of Nick Drake. The Liverpool native relocated to Newcastle to pursue a fine arts degree, emerging somewhat unexpectedly with a promising musical career when her second album, 2000's Little Black Numbers, was nominated for Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize. More expansive than her debut, yet still winsomely intimate, the album was initially released on her own Caw Records label, though it was soon delivered to a much larger audience via a licensing agreement with Warner's EastWest imprint. With her newly raised profile, Williams began writing her third album and making collaborative appearances with folk legends like Bert Jansch and John Martyn. Her much-anticipated follow-up, Old Low Light, arrived in 2002, followed in 2004 by a covers album called Relations.
Fiercely independent in attitude and appealingly understated in song, Williams resumed recording new material at a prolific pace, delivering 2005's Over Fly Over and 2006's Leave to Remain on her Caw label when her tenure with EastWest ran out. In 2008, she worked with British singer/songwriter Neill MacColl (son of folk icons Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger) on the collaborative album Two, which received a widespread release via Nettwerk Records. That same year, she also contributed vocals to Bombay Bicycle Club's debut single, "Evening/Morning." Another collaborative project followed in 2010, when Williams and Newcastle-based punk musician Anna Spencer formed the children's duo the Crayonettes.
Resuming her own solo career later that year, she signed with London-based label One Little Indian and continued releasing high-quality albums at a fairly brisk rate by modern industry standards. Issued in 2010, The Quickening was followed by the Adrian Utley-produced The Pond in 2012. Crown Electric arrived a year later as Williams embarked on her biggest U.K. tour yet. She has shared the stage with acts like Ray LaMontagne, Martha Wainwright, and KT Tunstall, among many others. Her 11th album, Hypoxia, a lyrically and sonically ambitious set of songs inspired by Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar, was co-produced by Ed Harcourt and released in 2015. The following year saw the release of Resonator, a set of jazz standards recorded with vibraphone player Anthony Kerr. Returning to the literary world, Williams collaborated with writer Laura Barnett, setting to music a series of lyrics from the author's novel, Greatest Hits. Released in companion with Barnett's novel, the 2017 album was called Songs from the Novel Greatest Hits.