16 October 2020 08:31

This is the experience that birthed her new album and tracks like 'Your Longing Has Gone'.

This cover image released by BMG shows "Album No. 8" by Katie Melua. (BMG via AP) Katie Melua, "Album No. 8" (BMG) Katie Melua sings as though she's sharing a secret, which is what makes her music so inviting. Born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Melua lives in the United Kingdom and is more popular there than in the United States. Perhaps that's because she rarely raises her voice, but on "Album No. 8," she really doesn't need to. Her affecting, arresting alto stamps the set's 10 original songs with an ethereal beauty that's immediately ear-catching.

When Melua begins by singing "I'm taken in," she's describing her audience. The Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra provides support, with lovely arrangements by producer Leo Abrahams. As strings swirl and bloom, Melua is also accompanied by guitar, piano, organ, saxophone, bass and drums in various combinations that never spoil the intimate mood. ADVERTISEMENT There's a dreamy longing to Melua's tunes about faded love, reality and illusion, the tug of roots and edelweiss. The compelling drama "English Manner" swings like background music at a cocktail party, and "Voices in the Night" flirts with a dance beat, but the tempos are never fast.

The way Melua sings, there's no reason to rush. "I think we've given love too much airtime," Katie Melua sings, slightly disingenuously, on a new album that tackles the eternal subject from oblique angles. "You know the kind of songs I'm meaning," she notes on Airtime, which finds the Georgian-British singer-songwriter gently complaining about a preponderance of slushy ballads evoking feelings she'd rather keep at bay. "Oh, turn it down / Too much love is all around." I don't suppose it's an intentional reference to the summer of 1994 when Melua would have been just 10 years old and Love Is All Around was number one for 15 weeks. But anyone who suffered under the reign of Wet Wet Wet may appreciate the sentiment.

Melua's seven-year marriage to World Superbike racing champion James Toseland recently ended in divorce. Unfortunately for singer-songwriters, it is a bad turn of events that often brings out the best in them. Divorce albums tend to be dramatic affairs, where sadness and bitterness jostle, spilling (in Bob Dylan's memorable phrase) Blood on the Tracks. Melua, however, is almost at pains to maintain emotional distance and avoid recrimination. Opening track Love Like That sees her conjuring images of wild passion with a pessimistic twist ("It's a burning fire / It'll be a wreck") building to the question "how do you make a love like that last?" as if resigned to failure. On Your Longing Is Gone, Melua evokes autumnal images to convey changing emotions. On the final track, Remind Me To Forget, she refrains from laying blame for love's failings, instead noting "There's seven reasons why / And yours are different from mine." This may be the world's first No Fault Divorce album. Even more than the almost scrupulously fair lyrical content, it is the languid melodies, unhurried rhythms and gentle balance of acoustic instruments with richly orchestrated strings that convey Melua's self-composure. Producer Leo Abrahams is a classical guitarist and composer whose own work tends towards the ambient and experimental, and his spacious, almost weightless arrangements really hit the sweet spot. Katie Melua is one of Britain's most successful recording artists; selling more than 11-million albums, one-million concert tickets, and receiving 56 platinum awards to date. With the release of her new album on Friday, 16 October, Keri got the chance to host her on her tell-all couch, starting off by asking her about the correct pronunciation of her surname. Keri then takes Katie back to a story she once told in an interview about fetching water and the simple life she lived as a little girl to the 21-year-old who released 'Piece by Piece'. Katie owes her grounded nature and humility to her upbringing and the principles that her grandparents instilled in her. READ: Keri's Couch: Remarkable woman who made a difference during the lockdown period Speaking about her growth and the many changes she has gone through as a musician over the years - and even the changes she has had to adapt to during lockdown, Katie said: "Through time the voice changes, and I'm not sure if it has to do with what we listen to and what we take in or our accent or if it is a physiological thing, but it sounds different if you compare what I sounded like at 19 and now." Katie also spoke about going through a divorce and the changes that the experience has brought about in her life, but also the relationship she still has with her ex-husband. This is the experience that birthed her new album and tracks like 'Your Longing Has Gone'. Listen to the full interview below: