London E1 Spitz

The kinky-haired Northern folk siren looks genuinely startled.

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 [I]do [/I]they get to hear about it?”

Well, ahem, [I]NME[/I] has been beating the drum for [a]Kathryn Williams[/a] 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.