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London E1 Spitz

The kinky-haired Northern folk siren looks genuinely startled.

London E1 Spitz

The kinky-haired Northern folk siren looks genuinely startled. "Where did all these people come from?" she wonders softly of the rapt, sell-out crowd. "How do they get to hear about it?"

Well, ahem, NME has been beating the drum for Kathryn Williams since her demo first started circulating over 18 months ago. But the true credit lies with the infectious grace of her wide-eyed songs - rooted in the old peat of English folk, but somehow box-fresh and immediate all the same.

Songs like the moving 'Toocan', one of her earliest, re-recorded with cello and drums for the new album 'Little Black Numbers'. "Passion in life is all I want in it", Williams breathes, her voice like mountain dew on fawn coat. Or the perky, accusatory 'Soul To Feet', which would feel at home on a Belle & Sebastian EP (there's an idea: collaborate, please).

She's joined by cellist foil Laura and a double bass for the aching, lust-gone-wrong confessional 'No-one To Blame'. Obviously grateful for the camouflage, Williams nonetheless remains the song's riveting centre. But if her nerves are in evidence tonight, they offset a sharp, disparaging sense of humour that instantly dispels any hint of fragile folk-girl clichi. A star, then, whose shy flicker is more illuminating than the dazzle of the folk crossover's better-lit names.

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