Kathryn Joseph – From When I Wake the Want Is
- David Pollock
- 10 August 2018
Triumphant second album from the singer-songwriter
There feels no harm in repeating the story of Kathryn Joseph's life and career as though it were some kind of fairytale, because the unlikeliness of her tale is matched only by the degree to which her talent made the success which she's achieved inevitable. What seemed unlikely at the time, however, was that a 40-year-old single mother from Aberdeenshire might be able to prise open a space for herself in the music industry, not to mention the hearts of thousands of fans.
After a small-scale release on the same label which discovered Frightened Rabbit, however, admiration for her work grew to the extent that she won the Scottish Album of the Year Award in 2015. Now – following the soundtrack to Cora Bissett's play Room, the collaborative album project Out Lines and a support slot for The Cure at Hyde Park – her reputation is spreading, and it feels like some weight of expectation is falling upon this second album. In which case, it wears it incredibly well; making a very delicate feature of Joseph's piano playing and incredibly distinctive voice, as well as the brush or kick of a drum here and there, From When I Wake the Want Is is a triumphant album.
The delicate power of these songs and of Joseph's fluttering voice – an elemental instrument which reminds of, but doesn't sound like, those of PJ Harvey or Kate Bush in its distinctive shape – is counteracted by some of the vicious imagery borne within the tracks; the point where she sings 'I have seen the bird of sorrow / I have looked it in the eye' amid 'Mountain', for example, or the grisly bodily imagery of 'Mouths Full of Blood'.
Her lyrics are often opaque, but she appears to sing hymns to the safety and solidarity of women on 'we have been loved by our mothers', and delivers a possibly sinister lament to devoting oneself to another on 'there is no god but you'. The tone of this track sums Joseph's irresistible muse up well; these songs are full of love, but love can be dangerous or fulfilling, depending on where it's directed.
Out Fri 10 Aug on Rock Action.