Compiled by: Jack Foley
IN talking about the motivations behind her covers album, Relations,
singer, Kathyrn Williams states that she did it to help her fall
in love with music again.
"The follow-up to Old Low Light was ready to be recorded,
but I was feeling cynical and I didnt want to take that
into the studio with me," she explains.
Hence, Williams went through some of her old, favourite records,
and gave them a self-satisfying makeover, taking in everything
from Nirvanas All Apologies, to Neil Youngs Birds.
And the result is actually quite surprising, especially given
the fact that Williams vocal style is a million miles from
the husky, grunge-like tones of Kurt Cobain and co.
Even she confesses, herself, that some of the songs that
ended up on the album came as a surprise, but concedes that
songs just choose you sometimes, without any apparent reason.
"Its like with friends - you cant define why
your relationships work, you just connect with some people."
Here, Williams takes us through the inspirations behind some
of the choices.
In A Broken Dream (David Bentley)
This was originally by Python Lee Jackson and Id never
heard it before Stephen gave me a copy of it and said why dont
you have a go at this. I listened to it and thought, are
you mad? This isnt me at all." Then I played it with
Dave and Laura and found it amazing that someone else knew what
would suit me better than I did myself. It just seemed to work
for us, straight off.
Birds (Neil Young)
Neil Young wrote this one and its on After The Gold Rush,
which is a great album. I think hes an amazing writer -
there are loads of songs by him that would be great to do. Hes
such a mans man, but at the same time he writes with such
tenderness and feeling.
I think this version is a really good example of the way I try
to do things. Its a band doing as little as possible for
maximum effect. Lauras cello part is probably a total of
about six seconds long, but thats all it needs.
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
Leonard Cohen is a genius and a hero of mine. When I first started
writing songs I sent him a letter and a tape. I sent it to Mount
Baldy, which is a Buddhist retreat, and said if he didnt
have a stereo there he could take it to a shop! How embarrassing.
I hope he never got it.
Ive been singing this song ever since I started playing
in front of other people and recorded a version of this on the
mini-album I put out before Dog Leap Stairs. I did 50CDRs and
painted each of the covers individually. It took me days, but
I sold some and bought myself a nice bottle of wine as a treat.
This version was recorded at Regents Park Open Air Theatre
on the hottest day of last Summer. We loved the gig and Im
so glad we recorded it. We did Hallelujah as an encore; the heat
of the day had finally gone and it was as if everyone was basking
in coolness. I cant tell you how perfect that time and place
Im not trained to sing at all and sometimes, when my voice
comes out of me, Im as surprised as anyone. When we finished,
I opened my eyes and people were clapping and I was kind of surprised
at where I was. I had been completely in the song before that.
I love it when that happens.
The ballad of easy rider (Roger McGuinn)
This was originally recorded by The Byrds, but thats not
the version I know. Neil brought home his teenage LPs from his
sisters house and this song is on Camper Van Chadborne,
by Eugene Chadbourne and Camper Van Beethoven. Its a brilliantly
chaotic and touching track on a very chaotic album.
Candy Says (Lou Reed)
I love the Velvet Underground, especially the third album. They're
one of my all-time favourite bands.
I like the idea that the original is about a transsexual (I think),
but when a woman sings the song it gives it a different meaning
and changes it into a story about how it can feel to be a woman
in the world. I love the way the chorus is both upbeat and despairing
at the same time.
I wanted to do Pale Blue Eyes from the Velvet's third album, but
when we tried it, it just didn't work for us. It's a perfect example
of how a song can choose you, rather than the other way around.
Doing a version of someone else's song isn't always about what
you like or what a certain song says about you, it can be about
just happening upon a song that fits you in some way.
How Can We Hang on to a Dream (Tim Hardin)
Tim Hardin is so overlooked, but he's easily as good as, say,
Tim Buckley or Nick Drake. He was an amazing writer and performer;
I find the live recordings very exciting.
We were going to do a fairly straight version of this. I think
the instrumentation of the original is lovely as it is, and it's
a natural one for my band, but somewhere along the line it changed
I Started A Joke (Gibb brothers)
I heard this somewhere and loved it, but didn't know who the
original was by. I was surprised when I found out it was the Bee
It surprises me that so many people have covered it, because it's
such a quirky song - it's an odd shape and strange subject matter,
but it works and has touched a lot of people enough to make them
want to cover it.
That's what the writers are really good at, I think, observing
little thoughts or situations and translating them into something
more universally understood.
All Apologies (Krt Cobain)
I already knew the song, but it would never have occurred to
me to do a Nirvana song. They're very hard songs to sing because
Kurt Cobain's vocals are so distinctive and unique.
Our version started out quite simple, but the song kept on demanding
more. The strings are so melodramatic on this - I love them.
The original is quite snaring and angry, and I think this version's
dark in its own different way. It's kind of sinister, but has
a kind of lightness about it.