British singer/songwriter Kathryn 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. A native of Liverpool, Williams relocated to Newcastle to pursue a fine art 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 album, Old Low Light, arrived in 2002, followed in 2004 by a covers album called Relations.
Fiercely independent in attitude and appealingly understated in song, when her tenure with EastWest ran out 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. 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. ~ Timothy Monger