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October 6

Kathryn Williams & Withered Hand

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About The Event

15 Whitefriargate
Hull, HU1 2ER United Kingdom
October 6, 2024
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm


Kathryn Williams & Withered Hand Sun Oct 6th 7-30pm-9-30pm


“As befits her multi-arts background, Williams’ songs scan like short stories” – MOJO


“Kathryn Williams has never made a bad record” – Clash Magazine


“Thank heavens for Withered Hand, who plies us with gorgeous pop solace and punchlines” – The Quietus


“He’s up there with fellow Scots Belle and Sebastian; his tunes full of warm, woozy singsong charm” – Rolling Stone


Prolific singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams and recently reinvigorated troubadour Dan Willson (aka Withered Hand) have announced a collaboration album, ‘Willson Williams’, out April 26th via One Little Independent Records.


‘Willson Williams’ witnesses the meeting of two likeminded musicians who’ve built their successful, independent careers on inventive folk instrumentation, reflective and sincere lyricism, and not a small amount of self-deprecation. Their modest confessionals, written poetically and over nostalgic and atmospheric melodies, are as relatable as ever, and together they find new ways to unpack their feelings.


One overarching theme on the album is that of grief, when the writing process saw them both, tragically, in mourning for separate loved ones; Dan for his brother Karl and his friend Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit, and Kathryn for her friend, comedian and BBC Radio 4 presenter Jeremy Hardy. They explain that “the initial premise and starting point for us was discussions and open conversations on bereavement. We’d both recently lost friends who were also in the public eye, and we talked about the strange place between personal loss and the communal grieving of a public figure”. Contrastingly, the music on ‘Willson Williams’ is warm, heartfelt and even cheerful, an opposing nature that is completely in keeping with both their humour and candidness.


Kathryn and Dan met in 2019 in a Spiegeltent at Edinburgh International Book Festival curated by Hollie McNish and Michael Pedersen. They began making music together, travelling for writing sessions at each other’s homes, and became fast friends. “We talk and spend time together” says Dan, “and then it’s almost like the next time we sit down to write, a synthesis of late-night kitchen conversations become distilled into the songs. It’s hard to separate who’s done what and where the songs sprang from. The writing and the friendship with Kath rejuvenated my own songwriting process enough to be able to do this”.


The record was made with the help of Creative Scotland who funded the recording, enabling the duo to enlist some of the finest talent the Scottish music scene has to offer; artists such as Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow), Graeme Smillie (Arab Strap/The Delgados), Kris Drever (Lau), Chris ‘Beans’ Geddes (Belle & Sebastian), Pete Harvey (Modern Studies) and Kenny Anderson (King Creosote). Producer Rod Jones (Idlewild) recorded, engineered, and mixed the record at Post Electric Studio in Leith.


Opener ‘Arrow’ is relaxed and introspective and details a chat they’d had about Willson’s recent turn at archery, which ended up being the perfect metaphor. Kathryn tells us that “Dan had been taking lessons with his son. We had also been sharing our feelings of transience and the gaps between working and not working, and touring, and being home, and how to carry on through the fluxes of a career. The imagery and specifics of archery really embodied what we were saying to each other”.


‘Grace’ is an expressive example of their dreamy vocal harmonies and their ability to convey emotion. It started with a mental image of a photo of Kathryn’s father wearing white shoes in the 80s. It’s about memory, taking things for granted, wanting recognition and praise, and how online social activity perpetuates that dependence. It’s followed by ‘R U 4 Real?’ which Dan brought to the table having written it years prior, to which Kathryn added the finishing touches for its inclusion on ‘Willson Williams’.


The filmic ‘Our Best’ was the first song that Kathryn and Dan wrote together. Dan says that “Kath arrived in Edinburgh with a refrain that we worked up into the chorus of this song, and together we built a delicate structure around it, tentatively letting our voices harmonise and support each other, embodying the idea of doing what we can do in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds and changes”.


The couple reach out with their first single ‘Shelf’, a breezy and laid-back number that details their doubts, but in a playful manner that works to let them and the listener know that they’re in good company. “This song came from laughing about our own insecurities and making fun of ourselves for all that we worry about. The feeling was that we would put up a shelf together in the way adults do DIY and make a difference in their lives. It was a sweet opening of just feeling like neither of us were alone in our weirdness, which has become a running theme between us and the mental pitfalls of navigating, performing, creating and self-worth”.


‘Wish’ has a sentimental element to it, it’s about meeting people off trains or saying goodbyes at Waverley Station. It’s also about treasuring the advice from those who aren’t around anymore, about keeping close the people who have gone and letting them know their gift to you won’t be forgotten. It’s followed by ‘Sweetest Wine’, which is about regret for not being the person we should have been to someone. It’s about reflection on our past and how to act differently if similar situations arise again.


The upbeat ‘Weekend’ conceals an anxiety beneath its immediately accessible pop hooks. Dan says that “This was written after going to see a concert together in Newcastle. Kath’s friend was supporting Supergrass, who were doing a sell-out show and we arrived with our coats on straight from writing songs all day. It’s a lot about the feeling of being alien in a crowd. Sometimes on weekend nights out it feels like everyone else knows the rules of how to have a good time and we haven’t been given them”. It shares a subject with ‘Elvis’ elsewhere on the album, another song written after a show, Elvis Costello at Edinburgh Usher Hall.


The album features a cover of Cat Stevens’ ‘Sing Out’, included after Kathryn referenced the film Harold and Maude as a philosophical companion piece to the tracks. Closer ‘Big Nothing’ features a recording of eco-gardener and philosopher John Butler. It was the last song to be written and its driving rhythms and urgency is in direct opposition to the sentiment of the song, which is about stillness, meditation and quiet contemplation.


‘Willson Williams’ is, above all else, about friendship. It’s the embodiment of putting the kettle on in times of trouble, and evenings putting the world to rights over glasses of wine. It’s about support networks and chosen families. In finding care, solidarity, and most importantly joy, with the ones you love.


Based in Edinburgh, Scottish indie folk-pop act Withered Hand is the solo project of singer/songwriter Dan Willson. A veteran of multiple bands in late-’90s and early-2000s Edinburgh music scene, Willson began his solo career after receiving an acoustic guitar from his wife as a 30th birthday gift. Migrating slowly from bandmate to solo artist, he began singing and writing his own loose, jangly songs, eventually releasing his debut EP, ‘Religious Songs’, under the moniker Withered Hand. Finding immediate success with the new format, Willson released a second EP in 2009 before teaming up with legendary American producer Kramer to make his first full-length album, ‘Good News’, in 2010.


With his ragged tenor and often lo-fi, acoustic-based sound, Willson has come to represent a certain standard in the UK DIY scene and was a part of the Fife-based Fence Collective with acts like King Creosote and James Yorkston. Two more Withered Hand EPs appeared in 2012 before Willson returned to the studio to record his follow-up LP. His second full-length, ‘New Gods’, was released in early 2014 by Fortuna Pop and Slumberland. The record was produced by Tony Doogan (Mountain Goats, Belle and Sebastian) and features help from Black Tambourine’s Pam Berry, Eugene Kelly of the Vaselines, and members of Belle and Sebastian and Frightened Rabbit. 2022 saw him release his latest LP, ‘How To Love’, acclaimed by the likes of The New Yorker, The Scotsman, Folk Radio and more.


Kathryn Williams is often described as “a songwriter’s songwriter”, her timeless and searching work has earned her accolades, critical acclaim, and a loyal fan-base. In this new musical world when we talk about an artist’s body of work, we tend to think of a handful of records stretched out across of a handful of years, if we’re lucky. A changing industry and a focus on immediacy has done little to alter such notions, which makes Kathryn Williams something of an anomaly – releasing 12 full-length albums under her own name since her debut LP, ‘Dog Leap Stairs’, released in 1999.


As impressive a stat as that might be, it does little to capture the true magic of Williams work; the enchanting craft that has grown and expanded as she’s moved from one project to the next, from the breakthrough success of her Mercury Prize nominated ‘Little Black Numbers’ all the way to her Sylvia Plath tribute project ‘Hypoxia’ and her Christmas album ‘Midnight Chorus’, written with Dame Carol Ann Duffy. Her 2022 album ‘Night Drives’ received praise from the likes of MOJO, Uncut, The Observer, Record Collector, The Line Of Best Fit, Clash Magazine and more. While her best-known work is characterised by rich and honest songwriting inspired by the greats, Williams has continually been able to evolve as an artist because she’s always looked outside of such boundaries. She continues to listen and learn while, at the same time, writing with a fiery spirit and a sense of adventure that has never once wilted.