Photo by Philip Pavliger
Clark Williams is a singer, writer, and performer from Tennessee who performs as Big Kitty.
Big Kitty’s natural and disarming charm allows him to enter your consciousness through the side door. Upon first glance a mere singer-songwriter, he then seems to distort the continuum of space and time, presenting a reality “whose strange, secret world of nature involves a bevy of odd organisms including singing ferns, winged insects with human faces and a giant mouse named Jesus […] a knack for music-driven storytelling with vivid dreamworld scenarios that bloom in unusual ways from the physical world as we know it.” (Ernie Paik, Chattanooga Pulse) Big Kitty will leave you joyfully standing beside yourself.
It’s hard to miss the East Tennessee in Big Kitty’s creations, steeped as they are in both the natural wonder of the region and its imaginative, if crass, tourist industry, the vaudevillian show-biz aspects of which deeply mark his performance. Indeed, after his first performances, in basements and coffee shops of Maryville, Tennessee, he relocated to Chattanooga, where he split his time between the local punk scene and the venerable roadside attraction Rock City, where he worked entertaining tourists with an authentic yet imaginary version of southeastern folk music.
Known as much for his songwriting as his distinctive performance style, Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff has said of Big Kitty, “He writes songs like the Beatles and sings like Hank Williams”. However clearly his songs fit into traditional pop and rock forms, albums such as Recordings of Ferns (2013) and Excelsior Breeze Catchers (2017) blur the divisions between those forms with noise and storytelling. A Legend in the Field of Entertainment (2019) brings a theatrical element into the mix, taking cues from the Rat Pack as well as Artaud and David Cronenberg. His latest release, Accompanyments (2020), is a world of unsettling improvised sung poetry, inspired by the wild freedom of Jodorowsky and Sun Ra, recorded to the sole accompaniment of flowing water, wind, and the screaming farmers of his current home in the mountains of southwestern France.