Katie Melua

I really like jazz songs, blues songs, and things like that. -- Katie Melua

I strongly believe that great artists are artists who are original and talented in their music and performance. Music should be performed live. It is offensive to the audience if you mime. -- Katie Melua

Katie Melua Katie Melua

My first impression was wow!

I first heard Katie Melua some weeks into an Alpha Course run by the local church. We would always start with dinner, and during dinner music would be playing in the background. Just over a month into the course Katie Melua was playing in the background.

I inquired into who she was. I thought she was someone obscure and was surprised to learn she was No 1 in the album charts. Even on a ghetto blaster she sounded quite good. But nothing prepared me for what I heard when I bought a copy of her debut album Call Off The Search and listened to it properly on decent equipment. The recording, performance and production was brilliant. Hence the mind blowing wow!

Katie looks about 16, possibly as young as 12. A little waif dwarfed by her acoustic guitar. On one of the tracks 'The Closest Thing To Crazy', she gives the impression she is about 22 - 'feeling 22, acting 17'. Only later was I to learn she is only 19. But for someone so young, an amazingly powerful voice.

Born in Georgia in the former USSR (1984), Katie lived in Moscow for a while when she was three or four. The family then moved to Northern Ireland when she was nine when her father got a job there as a heart surgeon. Later the family moved again, this time to south east London.

Katie grew up close to the Falls Road in Belfast. She went to a Catholic School, her younger brother to a Protestant School. The song 'Belfast (Penguins and Cats)' is about Protestants (penguins) and Catholics (cats).

Katie compares herself with Eva Cassidy, and dedicates one of her tracks to Eva Cassidy, but good as Eva Cassidy is, and much as I love Eva, she blows Eva away. If I was to make a comparison, I would compare her with Rickie Lee Jones. In addition to Eva Cassidy, Katie cites another major influence to be Ella Fitzgerald. Other influences include Queen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Irish folk music and Indian music.

Some will compare Katie with Norah Jones. The comparison is very superficial. The mood is different and you need to be in a different mood to listen to Norah Jones, who, if the mood is not right, sounds very bland in comparison (Katie is more upbeat). If anything, Norah Jones is even more like Rickie Lee Jones than is Katie Melua.

A heady mix of blues and jazz, or maybe a whimsical mix of jazz and blues, as to the purist it's neither.

With all the rubbish that gets into the album charts, it is a refreshing change that the charts are topped by someone who makes it on talent alone.

At a recent pop awards ceremony, where the mediocre are awarded for their noticeable lack of talent, where conspicuous consumption is the norm, where everyone tries to outdo everyone else with their appalling lack of good taste, Katie made the point of turning up looking stunning in an outfit from her local Oxfam shop (which cost her all of 50).

2005, Katie Melua released her second album Piece by Piece.

A major criticism of her debut album, is not the contents or performance, but the fact that it contains copy protection (or at least some releases do), which causes major problems on some equipment where it will not play. It caused one computer system to crash when attempts were made to play in the DVD drive.

Copy-protected CDs are strictly speaking not CDs as they fail to meet the Phillips standards for CDs. Phillips, the joint-holders with Sony of the Compact Disc standards, have gone so far as to describe copy- protected CDs as 'worthless pieces of plastic', as there is no guarantee they will play on any CD device.

For Susie for a lovely evening, for Estie who if she heard the album I'm sure she'd enjoy, and for Jacquie for bringing her copy to the Alpha Course and Nick for asking her to bring it along.
(c) Keith Parkins 2004-2005 -- December 2005 rev 2