Folk musician Nick Williams has a habit of taking his songs on a route that you weren't quite expecting. But it's a welcome habit: sudden syncopation cleverly diverts from the beat you were anticipating, that high note you were waiting for is avoided in favour of one that gently shakes you, and sometimes even the song ends at a point that might be deemed unconventional. And with a band that covers violin, mandolin, double bass, piano, drums and guitar as well as providing beautiful vocal harmonies, it sounds as though Brighton-based Nick has everything he needs to express himself however he desires.
He describes his Anniversaries EP as a "study in the poetically fragile", and it was recorded in the Summer during a time of family tragedy. As a result, the theme of loss unavoidably predominates the music, and - as is the folk tradition - it glimmers with sincerity and the self-acceptance of emotion, backed up by Nick's sympathetically restrained falsetto voice.
Although the four tracks explore grief and death in different ways, the record does not leave you with overriding feelings of sadness or morbidness. 'Anniversaries' talks of nostalgia and inadvertent distance. 'Birthday Letters' speaks of acceptance and satisfaction of a life that may be reaching its end, but was filled with love. 'Ghosts on the Water', although the most lyrically sparse, feels like the most emotionally complicated song. The line "you never stayed when we're sleeping" hints at a sad memory of disconnection, yet the departed one persists in surrounding the singer. Finally, the aptly-named closing track, 'Closing Time', seems to carry the thoughts of someone that stands blinking at how joy and heartache can coexist.
As the piano strikes the final chord you are forced to marvel at how Nick Williams and the band have delicately created such a tight collection of thought-provoking songs; and they've done so whilst steering clear of producing the kind of contrived tearjerkers that many others attempt.
"I'm just a very primate, infantile folk singer." - Robert Wyatt